1960s, Winnipeg, Immigrant Family

Inspiration behind Waltraut

So this is me and my little brother, circa 1965, dressed up for photos or for church … maybe both. Lord knows I didn’t dress up for anything else. My parents worked hard for every penny and our clothes were often homemade.  

I had an aunt in BC who could sew whatever I’d point to in a fashion magazine. Summer holiday visits with her always resulted in an improved wardrobe. She tried to teach me and I did manage to make myself some  clothes back in my teens. That was the only way I could afford to be ‘in style’… even sewed my fancy grad dress. Sadly, I’ve not kept up my sewing skills. They seem as foreign to me now as my lapsed accordion skills.

Truth be told, even at 10 or 11 that girl in the photo would much rather have been reading a book than learning how to stitch a hem.  Now she’s much older and living her dream … reading and writing to her heart’s content. She’s the inspiration behind my newest book, Waltraut, coming out in early September. Now what will she wear?



Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Ah, the scent of sun-dried sheets!

It’s my first summer with air conditioning. How did I ever allow myself such an indulgence? Not sure I deserve it. I’ve managed quite nicely, all these years, without. But when I had to replace the furnace this winter … something I can’t live without here on the Canadian prairies, I had the opportunity to upgrade to AC and thought it might help in selling sometime in the future. 

Before this, I relied on shade trees, closed curtains and fans to get me through the most extreme heat.  I'd reflect that human beings have survived centuries of heat while doing strenuous physical labour … surely I can sweat it out for a few hot days. But here I am … one of the privileged ones … using up more energy while expending less of my own. However, I still hang my sheets outside. That remains from my childhood and I'll continue to indulge in this privilege. The scent of sunshine-dried pillow cases has yet to be imitated.

Star Weekly, August, 1945

Meanwhile … war rages throughout summer in other parts of the world. How can this be? How can humans destroy blue summer skies with dark smoke and missiles? How can this be happening now …in 2024? Haven’t we learned anything from our violent past? I re-read a Star Weekly from the summer of 1945 … the first summer of European peace … even while the grueling Pacific war continued.  

In North America, people were heading to lakes, while in ruined Europe, women, who became known as 'trümmerfrauen' were cleaning up the rubbled cities. Meanwhile, both my parents, still unknown to each other, were helping re-build the Soviet Union as POWs  - one in above open pit mine, the other in an underground coal mine. 

Star Weekly, August, 1945

I sit and read in air-conditioned comfort, flicking through news reports of more bombings, more casualties. 

Yes, these are the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer for some ... I wish it were for all!


Time on the Beach

Lake Manitoba beach
I’ve spent some of the best moments of my life on shorelines … whether as a kid going to summer camp and singing around a sunset beach fire … as a young person soaking up some sun on a beach towel surrounded by the smell of sunscreen … as a mom, building sandcastles with her kids … or as a ‘mature’ beachcomber hunting for garden driftwood. 

Sandcastle construction beside Lake Winnipeg

Even my 2019 research trip to Kaliningrad and Schleswig Holstein involved the beach. If ever there was an edge to sit on, the beach has promised me the best view … of waves, of clouds, of sunsets, of endless storied stones and, equally, of endless storied people. 

Baltic at Svetlogorsk (former Rauschen)

Summers are so short here in Manitoba and we’ve had our share of rainy days this year … so yesterday’s shoreline trip was a treat. Exploring with a couple of kids in tow reminded me of past beach magic. We returned to the city with pet rocks and some caged fish-flies. Great adventure! 

The fact that these kids, who’d spent years in a refugee camp, got to toast their first marshmallows, ended a rather perfect beach day.

Camp Morton shore


 

Happy Canada Day Weekend!

Happy Canada Day weekend! Hope you get to smile as you soak up some sun, splash in warm rain, smell some flowers, or eat some ice cream. It’s summer! Any thunderous sounds promise stormy weather, not war, and the inevitable fireworks that will ruin my dog’s night walk, are friendly fire. Last year at this time I was hanging out in a hospital, so I know the value of a good summer weekend!

Lake Manitoba

We’re far from being a perfect country, but we’re a democracy worth celebrating. Back in the sixties, my parents chose to become Canadian citizens and raised me to be grateful for its many freedoms.

To the newcomers who still arrive and embrace this freedom … may we learn from each other … and continue to celebrate Canada Day with gratitude. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to reflect the Canada we want.

Things to do:  get lost in a Canadian-authored book, learn some Canadian park history, listen to some Canadian music, walk through an urban park, visit a Canadian lake, eat some fresh strawberries with real cream, or sit around a campfire, surrounded by magical fireflies. 

So slap those mosquitoes and smile! This is our home!

Manitoba Sunset



About Joy

While working on my new book, Waltraut … which comes out in the fall! :)  … I explored the word schadenfreude. As a side note, of interest only to copywriters, editors and such, the word schadenfreude is a noun and while nouns are capitalized in German, a foreign word that has become a universal word, no longer needs a capital.  Interesting?  Maybe, to some.
Clouds or promise of rain?

Many English words and expressions have become ubiquitous throughout the world … but other languages, including French, (ex. Bonjour); Italian (ex. Ciao) and yes, German, have their own words that have become international. Often these are long, complicated words like sehnsucht, auf wiedersehen, or doppelgänger. Schadenfreude is a typical long German word that is actually two words, schaden, meaning pain and freude meaning joy. Combined the word means ‘joy at someone else’s pain.’ For example, we had a recent by-election in our province and no doubt there was considerable, schadenfreude amongst the winners. To be expected. Another type of schadenfreude would be when someone in your class, say a bully, comes down with a life-threatening illness. That would an unkind form of schadenfreude.  

While exploring the term schadenfreude, I came across the word freudenschade. This was new to me and also interesting. It’s more passive aggressive. Freudenschade means a lack of joy at someone else’s success. How many of us felt freudenschade at Putin’s recent electoral victory?  

And then there’s freudenfreude. Is this even a word? Apparently, yes. It means joy about other’s joy. I’m thinking empathy is a great umbrella term to connect us with other’s joy, pain and success. 

So whatever you’re feeling … schadenfreude, freudenschaden, or freudenfreude … it’s best to talk it out and return to the common word found in all three of these compound German words… freude (meaning joy). So freude to you, my friend, whatever language you speak.

Read more about these terms here. 

Joy of Joy




 

The Fabric of a Community: a tribute to Bev Morton

June 6th would have been Bev Morton’s 74th birthday.  In her honour an opening reception was held to celebrate her art at The Studio of La Maison on Provencher Boulevard. Aptly titled, “The Fabric of a Community,” the tribute highlighted her contributions to the local art scene.  Her death in November, 2021,  left a gap in many lives but her friends and her generous financial contribution to the Manitoba Arts community ensure that she won’t be forgotten.

Bev's sister, Sandra Weizman

Fabric art by Bev Morton

I continue to nurture her partner’s real-life geraniums, featured here in this piece of fabric art.  Never mind that Bev was a ferocious Scrabble player, I was in awe of her tenacity and vision. Even as she lay dying, she was planning the next art show.  And now, her sister, Sandra Weizman, has made it happen. 
Inspiration from
 geraniums

It’s a wonderful testament to the power of art, of memory, of community and to sisterly love. 

While the Wayne Arthur Gallery is no more, its spirit lingers on. The show continues at La Maison’s The Studio until June 22nd.  (From The Forks, it’s a short walk via the Esplanade Riel Footbridge.)


La Maison, 219 Provencher Blvd.


D Day for Germans

 D-Day. 80 years since Juno Beach near Normandy became famous. Canada lost 381 men on the first day of the invasion … a battle that lasted 77 days with many more lives lost. 

1944. My dad in a hurry to nowhere.
My parents didn’t immigrate to Canada until 1953, didn’t meet each other until 1951. So where were they in June, 1944?  My mom would have been working in an artillery factory in Stablach, East Prussia … present-day Stablawki in the Kaliningrad Oblast. She lived in the barracks, next door to a prisoner of war camp known as Stalag. As a civilian, I assume she had time to enjoy the beautiful June weather during her breaks. Maybe she went on a bike ride and picked some linden blossoms. East Prussia has beautiful linden, beech and chestnut trees. 

And where was my dad, the Luftwaffe pilot in 1944? As a crash survivor, he would have been in Poland's Stubendorf (Izbicko) and Posen (now Poznań) training new pilots in a “Blindflugschule.” Which means, training pilots to fly via instrument panels, not visuals.  My dad would have still been with his first wife, who got pregnant that summer with their second son. Maybe he had some spare time to play with his older boy. He’d always been good with kids. 

However, with the arrival of the D-Day troops on Juno Beach, that would be the last beautiful June for my parents. By June of the following year, the European war was over. The D-Day assault had been the beginning of the end for,the Nazis. Within a year, both my parents would be in Soviet custody. D-Day marked the end.

Would the Germans of June, 1944 be aware of the change coming at them? Certainly, the average German family had been affected by the true cost of war ever since the Stalingrad winter of 1941/42. But was the Nazi propaganda machine, run by Goebbels, still masking the inevitable doom that was in store?  Without a doubt.

I haven’t been to Normandy, but I’ve visited nearby Calais and sleepy little Fécamp. It’s hard to imagine fishing villages turned into slaughtering grounds. Why can’t sleepy villages be left to sleep?

June 6th … D-Day in Canada … a very different day for Germany. Of course, modern Germany is not the Third Reich and the men and women who experienced the Second World War are mostly gone. We have new wars grabbing headlines, new young men being called up to fight, new fronts being created.  It’s ironic that Germany’s leader, Olaf Scholz, stands with the Allies at these remembrance ceremonies, with Russia now the aggressor state. What will the next generation be commemorating 80 years from now?  


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1960s, Winnipeg, Immigrant Family

Inspiration behind Waltraut So this is me and my little brother, circa 1965, dressed up for photos or for church … maybe both. Lord knows I ...