Walking Each Other Home

When the Saturday newspaper arrives, what section do you open first? Me? It’s the obituary page, always. And often there’s someone I know, an old school friend or someone I knew more recently from the Cowichan Valley.

Death and dying have been on my mind lately, not that I feel it is imminent, it just comes up. I walk along the Sea Walk in our little town and there’s Rona and Geoff’s names engraved on a memorial plaque on a park bench, and over there, Fran (we both volunteered at the local museum), and other familiar names on different benches and each time I have a memory jog of pleasure. Even our dear dog Blaze, featured in this photo, is no longer with us.

We all need to be known and remembered and for some it’s important to be known for whom we were, long ago. We had an elderly neighbour who liked to stop you on the street and tell you about his current ailments and how he once was head of a big business, and people respected him. I usually took time to listen, even though I had heard it many times, he needed to feel known.

A few years ago, I volunteered in a seniors’ facility and in each resident’s room there was a photo montage of their earlier life with an easy- to- read bio. It immediately gave me an opening for conversation and reminded me and anybody else who came in that that this wasn’t just another anonymous old person. This person had lived and loved. Never underestimate the elderly!

It had hit me recently that there are few people left who knew me as a child and with whom I can reminisce as they overlook my many failings. My siblings are much younger than I and knew me in a different light. My partner Grant and I frequently talk about childhood memories, but his formative years were on the mainland and Alberta and were very different than mine. I have some family still around but all his generation of relatives are gone and it’s a lonely feeling. 

I ran into an old friend the other day, and strangely one of the first things she said was she wasn’t sure who she was any more. People who knew her when she was young had all died, friends who accepted her for who she was, are all gone. I knew exactly what she meant.

These conversations have come up recently with friends and even strangers. Maybe as someone said the other day, we are mourning the demise of our world.

So, what do we do? I’m an optimistic person, we have no choice but to carry on, doing the best we can. I recently listened to a talk given by four women who were Death Doulas.

(Death Doulas offer non-medical support for the dying and those who are left behind.)

This is my take away from their presentation:

*Ask yourself-how are you preparing for your death and dying?                               

*Ask yourself-what does it mean to live your life fully every day?                                     

*Having your affairs in order, your plans made, and your wishes known is your final gift to yourself and to those left behind.

*And advice for our world? Live hard: love hard: embrace justice: keep doing what’s meaningful, keep living and loving.

And because I am also a practical person, I have dedicated the month of June to getting my affairs in order. We already have pre-paid funerals, and bought our plots at Mountain View Cemetery (see feature photo with Swuq’us or Mt Prevost in background), in fact we often picnic on a nearby bench, and why not? We bought that little patch of land; we might as well enjoy it.

I am looking for an organized binder or book that walks me though all the information I need to record. If any one has already done it or has useful ideas about how to organize one, please share.

Once that’s done, I can relax and live my life fully.

Meanwhile (dubious advice here), record your story and your parents’ stories if you can, for as spiritual leader Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.” 

If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe from my web page/blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

~ Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes


Who’s Body Is It?


In the May 20th, 2023 edition of the Times Colonist newspaper, there was an article about an African woman, Dr. Edna Adan Ismail, my age, eighty-five, who received the 2023 Templeton Prize for her work in improving women’s health care and combatting female circumcision. Yes, Female circumcision. Female Genital Mutilation. Commonly referred to as FGM. How barbaric we say. In some counties it is illegal but there are doctors who still perform these surgeries, or mutilations for cultural reasons under the guise of medical necessity. And there are always non-medical practitioners of female circumcision available in many cultures around the world ready to do the job. Usually without sterile conditions or pain management. This year’s Templeton Prize recipient Edna Adan Ismail’s own mother circumcised her at age eight. Ismail’s family were well educated, her father was a doctor, yet her mother fell back on traditional practices.

There are three methods of circumcision for a girl. In the least invasive procedure, the hood of the clitoris is removed or the clitoris itself is cut off. Sometimes, the labia are removed as well and in the ultimate obscenity, the vagina is sewn shut. Of course, once the girl marries the vagina is opened again. This circumcision, supposedly done for health reasons, is to keep the girl or woman clean and pure, if she survives the inevitable infection. Nowhere in my research on the World Health Organization site did they openly mention male dominance, or misogyny for the continuance of the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. Instead, they used words like cultural, religious, health, lack of education etc.

Rubbish! FGM is about fear. Fear of women taking control, fear of women enjoying sex and fear of unknown paternity. In short, misogyny. We believe that such rituals would not occur in Canada. There is of course the dubious practice of male circumcision which is done when the baby boy is a few days old, often without pain relief. Apart from an extra level of cleanliness, there is normally no medical reason for it to be done. In fact, it decreases the sexual pleasure for men. But it is a custom in our North American Society.

Female circumcision was not a custom in Canada in the time I grew up in the 1940s and into the 1970s yet I allowed men, in particular male doctors, to have control of my body in ways that are almost as horrifying as Female Genital Mutilation. Horrifying as I, and I expect many other women, accepted male dominance over our bodies, never questioning or speaking up because, it was the way things were done.

Take childbirth, feet strapped to steel stirrups, the scalpel slashed across your perineum that soft spot beside your vagina, the knife wound medically called an episiotomy to prevent you from tearing, the cut that needed sutures and healing and maybe became infected, all standard medical procedure for efficient childbirth. I was an unwed teen when I had my first child. My episiotomy had become infected, the antibiotics weren’t doing their job so my mother took me to her naturopath physician. After a cursory exam he snipped something in the area of my clitoris. A streak of pain.

“That’ll be better” he said in a reassuring voice as he nodded to me.

In what way I thought as I laid mute. Later, I wondered what he had actually snipped, and why. And why I never asked. Was my mother compliant like Edna Adan Ismail’s mother?

When I was a student nurse, I cared for a woman who had her vagina sewn up in one long neat and tidy line, her clitoris removed too. I could imagine the surgeon being proud of his stitches. There was a medical reason and the doctor had done a fine job and probably saved her life. But all the woman was worried about was how upset her husband would be. I wished I had known to tell her that her body belonged to her, not her husband. But I didn’t know that then.

A few years later and three more large-at-birth children I had many gynecological issues. Prolapsed uterus, prolapsed bladder, massive bleeding and over a five-year period I had three major reconstructive surgeries. After one operation the male surgeon cheerfully told me he had done a low incision just above my pubic bone so I would look good in a bikini. That was the last thing on my mind.

Another couple of years on, after another major operation my again male surgeon stood by my bedside accompanied by a couple of interns and proudly announced “The surgery went well. I stitched you up as tight as a virgin again. That’ll make your husband happy.”


And then there was the hysterectomy where post surgery, he gayly announced that he’d taken out my appendix while he was in there. How was he allowed to remove a healthy organ without my permission? The scar this time went straight up my stomach, perpendicular to the bikini line scar. They were quick to take out women’s body parts back then. These days they would have found a way to manage my excessive bleeding and shrink my uterus which was permanently enlarged due to taking the early toxic experimental birth control pills.

And did he really need to remove my uterus? I was only thirty-three. My husband and I were breaking up. And now I was barren.

It was no coincidence that during the long process of breaking up with my second partner in the mid 1980s that I had more health issues. Breast lumps a year apart that required lumpectomies. I was prepared to lose a breast, or two. But luckily for me they were both benign. The surgeon (male) said I had nice breasts.

The article on Female Genital Mutilation appeared in the paper on the same day I visited a friend who’d had breast cancer twice over a period of a dozen years and had elected to not have breast reconstruction each time, the most recent surgery being a few months ago. The thing is I never noticed she was now flat chested; she was totally comfortable with her loose shirt and not worried about having to look a certain way for herself or for her husband.

I thought of my late daughter who also had a double mastectomy and how angry she was with her husband who instead of asking her how she felt about losing her breasts, offered to pay for the “best breast reconstruction going so she would still look good”. Their marriage didn’t last.

I hadn’t realized how much rage I had bottled until I read the newspaper article on FGM. It took a few days of packing that anger around while I tried to figure out why, and then it hit. I wasn’t just raging for all the women who had been brutalized, I was raging for myself. The self who hadn’t allowed herself to be angry, hadn’t allowed herself to say no. I was a fifteen-year-old virgin when I was raped and he told me not to tell. I was angry about rape and unwanted pregnancies and how the blame always fell on the woman. I was angry at how I had given up my power and let myself be a victim. I was angry about how many women are killed by the men in their life.

We congratulate ourselves on being informed and light years removed from what we consider to be primitive practices such as female circumcision and yet we allowed men and some male doctors to sexualize our bodies, and in my case perform some type of genital mutilation without my consent.

There is change. There is more equality between men and women in my country but we can do better. The change needs to be world wide. My heart aches for all the women who are affected. And for all the men who struggle to change.

What I do know is: I have found my rage, my power. I am no longer a victim.

This body belongs to me.

If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe from my blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

~ Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes


Part Three: Navigating Aging with Dubious Advice by an Island Crone

Don’t drink scotch when you are depressed! More of my excellent dubious advice in this post!

The following is an excerpt from my journal approximately ten years ago. It was a difficult time. I was feeling very old.

At my desk, writing in my journal

“Standing at the sink listlessly running water over a few dishes.

I am slipping away. I am a grey shadow sliding around corners, almost invisible. I have no energy or desire for making food. It is an effort to wash my hair. I can’t be bothered to have it cut and styled. Who will care?  A wild scraggly mess of wispy grey. I don’t shower unless I am going out, I don’t make an effort to look good, I feel dismal. My office is a mess. I have piles of papers waiting on the floor to be sorted and I can’t get the energy up to even care. I am afraid I will get to a place where I can’t return. I will slide into oblivion.

I have a trio of spirit guides who comfort me. They have been coming nightly in my dreams. My shadow self walks bent over wearing a long grey wool skirt, an old man cardigan clutched to my stomach, my hair drips over my face and my eyes focus on my feet. This is the person inside me that wearily keeps them company.

If I don’t do something I will get smaller and smaller, creeping around softly until I am nothing. I have to do a big something but it takes energy and I don’t have it”.

For now, I cram it back down.

Later I let these images rise into consciousness and I start journal writing.

I am depressed! The realization of depression caught me by surprise. It was not just old age.

That evening I share my feelings with Grant.

“Ah the black dogs” he said.

“Grey,” I replied, “my dogs are grey.”

“What are you going to do about it?  Don’t drink,” he added.

“That was the first thing I thought of,” I said. “Scotch.”

“We don’t have any do we?” he asked.

“No, unfortunately.”

We laughed.

Dubious advice #5: Don’t drink scotch.

Next day-10:30 AM

Still in my pyjamas, I have not brushed my hair nor brushed my teeth. I need a shower. It’s too much bother to get wet and dry and then wipe down the shower stall.

I need to do something. My mind runs through the list of things that comfort in times of despair.

Shoes- I have yellow shoes, red shoes, purple shoes, silver shoes, brown high boots and green boots. I have shoes I buy in times of stress and never wear.

Dubious Advice #6: Buy more red shoes anyway. Life is short!

Hair-always. Get a new hair style; dye it pink, or blue; shave half the head. Even the lure of an outrageous hair style doesn’t spark an interest.

Dubious Advice # 7: Remember there’s a fine line between outrageous and crazy old lady!

Chocolate- the only chocolate we have is Easter egg chocolate and it is the kind that makes my throat close in. Nix that.

Books- yes, there was book review I read yesterday, 150 Spiralizer Recipes. $19.95.   If I buy that and buy a Spiralizer, I will eat healthily and lose weight and my depression will disappear.

I order the book. Now that I have a plan, a renewed goal, I feel marginally better.

Dubious Advice #8: Hatch a plan.

 I take St. John’s Wort, get dressed and scrunch product into my hair. I put the black top I was wearing yesterday in the hamper and pick a pretty blue one.

Dubious Advice # 9: Make an effort.

 My mother’s face drifts in view. A memory. She was in my dreams last night, watching me. Her presence was warm and comforting. In my dream we talked of planting flowers outside the window where there were three arbutus trees above a stone wall. Then still in my dream I had a long shower in a big wood-lined shower room. A huddle of three Asian men walked by me in the shower, through the water, smiled and bowed as they said goodbye and left through an outside door.

Long ago Mum told me I had a Japanese spirit guide. Her guide said that he would always look after me. I guess he felt I needed three spirits guiding me this time!

11:30 same day, I put on a jacket and take the dog for a stroll along the Sea Walk. The sun is shining and two young mothers with children are talking and laughing as they pass by. They barely notice me.

I stumble as I walk away and wonder at my surge of jealousy. They have their youth. The young own the world. I will never again own the world.

That is the crux of my grief. So, I write. And I write around it and I write through it and I come out whole.

Dubious advice #10: Write what you feel. Put down words. Get to the crux.

I am still writing and I am still whole.

With love from your Island Crone.

If you enjoyed this advice and are curious about my next book about travelling on the coast with our dog, please subscribe from my news letter/blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes

author of Growing Up Weird: A memoir of an Oak Bay childhood and River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years. Facebooktwittermail

Cookies and Tea

What do Dishpan Cookies, the Coastal Missions, and a local potter have in common? A lot in a serendipitous way. In fact, that trio has given me joy more than once. Take the other day, grey skies, garden calling to be cleaned up, my back telling me to chill, my mood bordering on a major blah when I remembered my list of Dubious Advice (refer to my blog posts on how to navigate aging).

Dishpan cookies and coffee in a Jane Wolters’ mug.

Dubious Advice # 11…Do something productive. Don’t mope around whining and groaning about how tired you are. Do Something!

I made cookies. Dishpan Cookies, big lumpy raisin, nut, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies and served them with tea.

The first time I sampled Dishpan Cookies was recently at Chemainus potter Jane Wolters’ studio. Years ago, we had visited her studio and Grant spotted a vase on a top shelf that he liked and brought it down.

“Oh” she said, “I had forgotten about that vase.”

We had a feeling she was reluctant to let it go. It’s been his favourite vase and one we use often. So just before this past Christmas, when Grant was getting rid of some of his books, he decided his big hardcover book on the history of ceramics should go to Jane Wolters and we dropped it off at her house. She followed up with an invitation for tea and cookies at her studio a month later.

Oh, her studio. It was a wild and wonderful mish mash of working area with potting wheels plural, kilns and clay, pots in different stages of readiness and shelves of her earthy pottery and more shelves of her newer more metallic finishes. We wandered and touched and stroked. I had done some wheel work years ago and this was one of my dreams. As I was looking at Jane’s work I recognized her style, and realized that some of my pottery that I had bought along the way at art shows or fairs or gift shops was made by her. Jane insisted we both pick a piece of pottery as a gift as a thank you for the ceramic book. Grant chose a mug and I picked a tiny vase for my snowdrops.

Flowers in our vases from Jane Wolters

We sat comfortably in her studio as Jane served tea in her own pottery cups along with a plate of big fat chunky Dishpan Cookies. “These are good,” we raved as we gorged on her cookies and asked about the name.

“The recipe came from the couple who ran Coastal Missions.” she said. “I met them when we used to sell eggs from our hens and we soon became friends. After that every Christmas they would drop by with plates of a variety of home-baked cookies. They said the Dishpan recipe came from someone up the coast who they would visit on their missionary voyages.”

“But the name?” I asked.

“Likely the only bowl big enough to mix a huge batch of cookies in those up-coast logging and fish camps was the tin dishpan. They had to make do.”

I remember the Coastal Mission people who once lived along the water in Saltair and knew about the work they did travelling to the remote coastal villages, bringing more than just religion to the people scattered up and down our waterways. The Columbia Coast Mission boats carried goods, people, medical help and were an essential part of the Vancouver Island coast. (Now www.coastallight.ca)

This Coastal Mission connection was another serendipitous moment for me for it was part of different dream. I once planned to travel on those boats as a nurse going to the remote Indian Villages. And as I have a few ministers and missionaries in my background a bit of churching would have been possible too. One of my favourite books is Totem Poles and Tea by Hughina Harold who travelled by Coastal Mission boats to Village Bay and served as a nurse and school teacher in 1935.

And so, we sat In Jane’s studio soaking up her lovely energy and eating her scrumptious cookies as I basked in the revelation of the culmination of my dreams, even by association. (Jane is also an accomplished artist.)

Grant sat across from us and later remarked that we were a lot alike.

My only regret was that we were so busy talking that I forgot to take pictures of Jane’s studio. I did stop though to capture their whimsical array of garden tools along the fence as we were driving off.

Garden tools along the fence at the potter’s studio

When I got home, I checked the bottom of each piece of pottery that I thought was Jane’s and sure enough they had her signature big W. And the other day when my writers group met at my house, I baked a big batch of Dishpan Cookies and served them on a pottery plate made by Jane. And of course, read them this story.

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More dubious advice on how to navigate aging coming next month.

Island Crone by Liz Maxwell ForbesFacebooktwittermail

Part Two: Navigating Aging with Dubious Advice by an Island Crone

Quite a few years ago, around the time I turned seventy, I began reading articles on getting old and on downsizing. The idea being you should downsize before it was ‘too late’. In other words, while you still had all your marbles.

The un-tended garden

We were already living in a small bungalow, but moving into a smaller home or modular home, with no grass to mow or gardens to tend, suddenly seemed the way to go. At least for me. I did most of the gardening.

It took a bit of convincing to get Grant on board. I quoted stats from Senior magazines and he was willing to at least look.

Dubious advice #2: Take a stand, be proactive.

While driving around a mobile home park up island, looking at the units for sale, we spotted a friendly looking woman walking across the road carrying a half full bottle of red wine. When we asked her about the park, she became animated, telling us how much she liked it and how hard it was initially to get rid of her things in order to downsize. “But it became easy. After all, it is just stuff,” she stated, as she waved the wine bottle in the air. “We got rid of everything when we moved here and never looked back.”

Grant celebrating with wine!
Grant enjoying a glass of white!

A neighbour joined her, clutching her survival pack of Benson and Hedges and a bottle of white. “It’s happy hour” she said, flicking a finger on her wine. “We’re off to visit a friend up the road.”

We asked them about the mobile home for sale further up the hill with the magnificent view of Nanaimo harbour.

“Don’t know anything about that one,” the red wine toting woman answered. “We keep to ourselves down here, have a good little community, summer barbecues in the middle of the street, everyone comes bringing their food and chairs. Never talk to the people up the hill. It’s nice, quiet down here with all the trees. We like it.”

Dubious advice #3: Drink wine- or not- but have fun.

We thanked them both and drove around the mobile home park and up the hill again to look at the unit with the kick-ass view and low price. “If we could bring in a new park model and put it in this site I could live here but that would become awfully expensive and not worth it,” I mused. Grant agreed.

We were still undecided as to what to do and as our needs weren’t pressing and as we hadn’t found anything that really spoke to us, it was easier to do nothing. Doing nothing was a decision but then as we were driving around in our free time looking at real estate, we hadn’t committed to doing nothing either. One thing we did had reinforced in this process is that one has to get rid of ‘stuff’.

My office with ‘stuff’.

Everyone we talked to had a story of getting rid of their possessions.

Another woman in a different mobile home park, told us of living in a four- bedroom house, her husband having a debilitating accident and having to downsize to a one level mobile home. She dumped everything she could on her children and had six garage sales before she was free of years of clutter. Free was the word she used to describe how she and her husband were living now.

“Getting rid of stuff was the best thing we ever did,” she said, “and it took my husband’s accident to motivate us.”

I don’t wish a drastic motivator but I do wish something would help me clarify this urge to move, to feel free. I continue to de-clutter, rid myself of stuff and we continue to pour over real estate. Perhaps when I am free of stuff I will feel free to be living in harmony with my surroundings and my self.

Dubious advice #4: Get rid of stuff.

Still more dubious pieces of advice, part three and final, coming next post.

If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe from my blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore

Crone: a derogatory term for an old woman, a hag? Or the word for a woman of an older age who is revered for her wisdom, compassion and healing laughter? And a woman who embraces the ancient crone archetype with her age accumulated knowledge, her insights and intuitions, a woman who has found her power. An Island Crone. A sometimes-witchy island crone!


feature image

Part One: Navigating Aging with Dubious Advice by an Island Crone

Normally I don’t give getting old a second thought. Why should I? I am a healthy 85-year-old, active, and still interested in what’s going on in my community.

I feel I can do every thing I once did. Until this happened.

It was a beautiful blue-sky day on January 1, 2024 when I walked down to the ferry dock to watch the annual polar bear swim. I didn’t see anyone I knew. Covid had done that for me. I had stopped going to public events.

But then I recognized a voice in the crowd, a young couple whose daughter was doing the swim.

“Here,” he said, “you can watch with us.”

He held out his hand as I stepped over the foot high divider between the vehicle and the pedestrian path on the ferry dock.

When the swim was over and I turned to leave they were already walking away. I looked at the wooden beam that was the barricade between me and my way home and I knew if I tried to step over it without support, I would fall. The air around me was shimmering, it was either the sunlight dancing on the water or something else that made me feel dizzy, whatever, I knew I needed help.

I hate asking for help.

I called out to the wife who was on her phone walking away. Of course, she rushed back and gave me her arm to grip as I stepped over, teetered a bit, then centered myself. She gave me a hug and was on her way.

Dubious advice #1: Don’t be too proud to ask for help.

It was a long walk home.

“How was the polar bear swim?” Grant asked.

As I told him what happened I started to weep. “I hate feeling old,” I blurted between sobs. “I feel vulnerable and useless and as though I’ve aged a decade.”

Some of my journals

“Well, you are getting old Lizzie,” Grant said gently, “and its just part of letting go.”

“No!” I refused to listen to him. “I know I am old but I can still do something to slow the decrepitude. Walk with my Nordic poles. Do my balance exercises. And write in my journal to ease the angst.”

I have more dubious pieces of advice on how I am navigating aging to share with you. Next blog post, my friends.

If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe from my blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

~ Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes

view of Salt Spring iisland from Crofton Beach

How I Found the Spark for Coast Dog

People often ask, “How do you know what to write?”

“It just comes.” I reply.

As I write creative non-fiction and memoir, it could be a conversation overheard in a coffee shop that piques my interest, or it could be someone I meet on my morning walk. It varies. But what is constant, is that the moment sparks something that’s been bubbling around in my head. And then I’m away.

For instance, the book I am currently writing (working title)—Coast Dog: Island Meanderings—got its spark at least a dozen years ago from a meeting of my book club at our local pub in Crofton BC.

Ocean dog
Ocean dog

We had invited a well-known author from nearby Salt Spring Island to join us for lunch and to read from his latest book. The pub overlooked Osborne Bay and the ferry terminal and we watched in anticipation as the ferry docked and the walk- on passengers disembarked. He was easy to pick out, older than I had expected in his tweed cap and rumpled blazer, and I watched as he laboured slowly up the long jetty, his bulky messenger bag slung over one shoulder. A couple of the women in our group, each with a copy of one of his books in their hands, walked down to meet him.

He was delightful. A little hard of hearing and struggled to answer the myriad questions thrown his way from our group of twenty or so fans. He was at his best when he read from one of his books.

One woman eagerly told him she had read all his books and couldn’t wait to read his latest but she was on a long waiting list from the public library. His face turned a peculiar shade of purple as he spluttered, “Good God woman! Couldn’t you at least buy a copy? I’ve a mortgage to pay.”

Liz and Sasha on ferry to Thetis island
Foot passenger

But my spark didn’t arise from that anecdote, it came as I watched him walking along the dock from the ferry carrying his bag and I was struck by the romance of it all. How living by a ferry terminal to one of the gulf islands I was aware of the divide, the space between one island and the next, separated by water, each island holding its own mysteries and life styles and every island a ferry ride away to a place surely more romantic than the place where I am now.

And because any senior can travel as a foot passenger free mid-week on the ferries Grant and I would often take a trip across Stuart Channel with our dog and walk to the little beach in Vesuvius Bay, and have lunch at the pub and bask in the Salt Spring vibe and feel like we’d been on a holiday.

The idea of a small book of holiday spots on the gulf islands, easily accessible, inexpensive, where you can take your dog, where people are laid back and life is simpler, grew from that day.

But of course, the book is not that book now. Yes, that part is there but it has taken off in different directions which has necessitated many re-writes and has grown to a more complex and thoughtful telling of a story about middle age romance. And travelling with older cocker spaniels.

With any luck, you may be able to put (working title), Coast Dog: Island Meanderings: And the Dog Came Too on your Christmas wish list later this year.

Before you go, a quick post from the psychic me. Like writing prompts or sparks, they just come to me, at strange times and are nearly always dead on.

Something big is coming this year, something shocking and life changing. I don’t feel a sense of foreboding. Its more of an individual change of some major proportions…. and wear purple.

That’s it… take it or leave it. I never question the message. It usually explains itself.

If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe from my blog sidebar. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes

Crofton Seniors Christmas Dinner

It’s a Christmassy Soup Sort of Town

The first winter after we moved to Crofton B.C., a small pulp mill town on the coast, we were invited to the Seniors’ Christmas Dinner. It was to be held at noon at the local community hall and I was expecting small-town-kind-of-lame, get-in and get-out.

It was the event of the year! White table cloths, sparkling wine goblets, Christmas crackers, fresh roses for the women, Santa Claus, live music and turkey with all the trimmings. Everyone was dressed in their best. There were speeches and dancing, the hall was packed and the wine was flowing. This annual event had gone on for years, honouring the towns’ seniors, many of whom had lived and worked there all their lives. We knew we had chosen the right town for our retirement.

I trust Jean and I looked better in our rose-coloured glasses than this model!!

A couple of years later I met another newcomer, the way you randomly do in a small town. Jean Ballard and I discovered a shared love of writing and a fascination for the deep sense of community in our new home and we launched a monthly newspaper column about Crofton for The Chemainus Courier.

Jean took photos, we shared the writing and soon developed a reputation around town. One irritated reader wrote to the paper saying we must be wearing rose-coloured glasses because we even made the ongoing dog poop problem into a funny story. Jean and I bought dollar store rose-coloured glasses, strolled the Sea Walk flaunting them and posted our picture in the paper. Our readers loved it.

And we loved writing about our adopted home. In fact, Jean wrote a love story to Crofton for Our Canada magazine. In her article she referred to Crofton as a chicken soup sort of town. You can read it here.

A Place to Call Home: Welcome to Crofton, B.C. | Our Canada (on readersdigest.ca)

Jean moved away a few years ago and we dropped our column, but she continued with her own blog of nature photos and country hikes and I continued writing my two memoirs, Growing Up Weird: A memoir of an Oak Bay childhood and River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years.

Life in Crofton carried on. New people moved in, houses sprung up on the hillsides, the population grew  and seemingly every one, and their dog, walked on the Sea Walk.

Then Covid struck and there were no more Seniors’ Christmas Dinners.

Of course, we still had the Christmas parade, with the fire trucks and floats and hot chocolate and live music at the Warmland Church, but I missed that turkey dinner and the camaraderie of the old timers  who‘s roots stretched back to the early smelter days.

Then this December the Seniors’ Christmas Dinner was back on and it felt Christmassy again. The Crofton Community Centre, that always hosted the Christmas dinner, no longer had their catering crew and were unable to do the whole turkey extravaganza. However they put on a great feast of sandwiches, home baked goodies, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, tuxedo cake and two kinds of punch.  The lunch was hugely successful and I realized it was more about gathering and celebrating than about the food. It felt like old times.

It really is a Christmassy soup sort of town. And yes, I ‘borrowed’ that title idea from my old writing partner, Jean Ballard. 

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Island Crone by Liz Maxwell Forbes


And They Say You Can’t Go Home Again

They say you can’t go home again. But that is exactly what I did. It was only for a couple of days but I found my old child-self and it was glorious. Not a care in the world, clambering over rocks along seaside paths, avoiding the precious swathes of blue camas, dodging the heavenly scented prickly gorse and inhaling the sea air that is my Oak Bay. My two sons and I explored the steps to Middle Beach at Shoal Bay and I showed them where there had once been a salt water pool, a favourite swimming spot in my youth. And we joked around taking photos of each other on the brightly painted chairs at Harling Point.

Enjoying the sun

I was back in my home town of Oak Bay at the request of the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation to talk about my book Growing Up Weird: A Memoir of an Oak Bay Childhood. Friends and family came, important dignitaries came and my sister brought me flowers. One hundred and twenty people came to hear me read!

The audience was warm and welcoming and laughed in all the right places. I felt I was holding them in my hands. When the applause broke out, Robert Taylor, the lovely MC said I was a rock star.

Truly my fifteen minutes of fame.

Lecture Series

The Heritage Foundation’s Ben Clinton-Baker did an amazing job with his slide presentation of archival photos that accompanied my stories. And the charming ninety-two-year-old Oak Bay author Fay Pettapiece, brought me a copy of her just published memoir “The Years Between” (available at Ivy’s Book Shop on Oak Bay Avenue). She and I share our love for writing and reading memoir. Writing memoir is a gift to one’s family and to historians, as well as allowing ourselves space to make sense of who we were and who we’ve become. And mostly it gives us the opportunity to go home again. It was a memorable time.

Liz Maxwell Forbes.

Island Crone Blog

Crone: a derogatory term for an old woman, a hag? Or the word for a woman of an older age who is revered for her wisdom, compassion and healing laughter? And a woman who embraces the ancient crone archetype with her age accumulated knowledge, her insights and intuitions, a woman who has found her power. An Island Crone.

My Island Crone Blog will keep you up to date with the progress of my latest book, “And the Dog Came Too”. If you enjoyed this and are curious about more content from an Island Crone, please subscribe here. I promise to post at least once a month and sometimes more. But not often enough to bore.

River Tales library poster

How I Survived my First Solo Book Reading and Discovered the Magic of Why I Write

How I survived my first solo book reading and discovered the magic of why I write.

When the librarian from my local library asked me to do a reading from my memoir, River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years for their book club, I imagined a cozy conversation with a small group of eager fans.

It wasn’t until the librarian showed me the poster that she had made for the event, that I realized it was also open to the public!

I panicked.
I wasn’t practiced.
I had a ‘small’ voice.
I asked for advice.

My writers’ group said, “Project your voice, breathe from your diaphragm.
My younger son said, “Read excerpts that follow a theme.”
My daughter said, “Read the story about the raccoon and the chicken.”
My elder son said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

I did it all, and more. Ninety minutes, speaking to twenty-seven people. They listened, they laughed. I told anecdotes, and they asked questions. No one noticed my deep breaths, the moments my mind went blank, the times I fumbled with a memory.

Then a strange thing happened as I was telling my stories. I saw myself in the audience. The young woman in the front row clutching a copy of my book, her shining eyes never leaving my face, absorbing every word with her whole being; that was me years ago.

I remembered how I felt the first time I heard a writer speaking to me, her words moving within me and how I knew then I was going to be a writer. That was Sylvia Fraser reading from her memoir, My Father’s House 1987.
She wrote in my copy of her book: “To Liz, thanks for your glowing face, Sylvia Fraser.”

And another time, listening to the elegant British born Elizabeth Latham, reading from her locally based historical fiction Silences of the Heart 1995 and feeling inspired and at the same time despairing of ever being able to write as well.

Latham inscribed my book: “To Liz Forbes, and thank you for being such a warm and positive person while I read, Elizabeth Latham.”

I also recognized an older version of me in the woman who sat directly in front of the lectern and asked questions with what I knew was a burning desire to know.
This woman asked about writing, about publishing, asked how I organized my stories, and if it was a problem using real names. I wondered if she were also a writer, she evaded my question but I noticed her furiously making notes on scraps of paper jammed into my book. A closet writer. I wished I had asked her name.

Another woman wanted to know if I wrote with pen and paper or directly to the computer. I asked Jane Rule that question years ago; only her options were paper or typewriter. I confess that I don’t recall her answer, only that she said her arthritic hands were so sore she could barely manage to write.

I once thought if I knew an author’s secrets of writing (how often she wrote and where; in her own study or at the kitchen table), that I would know how to become a writer too.

If anyone had asked on this day of the library reading, I would have told them there is no secret; it is about a need to write, a desire to figure out life, to record the world around you. Most of us have messy lives, doubts about our abilities, know we will never be as great as: ‘pop-in-a-name-here’, but we keep on writing because in the end, that is all there is.

And, reading passages from your book and entertaining an appreciative audience and perhaps inspiring someone to write their own story, is where you’ll find the real magic that makes the work of writing all worthwhile.

Musings of an Island Crone