From the art room..., From the desk of...


Last year, just about this time, I wrote about my new route to school each day and the beauty in the colours around me as the leaves changed to richer and more complex combinations day by day.  Sometimes a change in routine (or route) is just the right thing; “a change is as good as a rest” my grandmother said…

This year has brought a great deal of change to the Martini family home – some of it slowly and some of it fast,  some of it welcome and some of it worrying, but we are learning to live through the changes as they come and to accept the beauty of each moment.

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” (Wolfgang von Goethe)

If you have been reading along with me for awhile you will know that the hardest change has been the death of one particularly wonderful friend.  She loved the autumn leaves (and wore their colours brilliantly), using the inspiration of the changing season to add colour to the lives and homes of her students and clients…

I miss her everyday, as does everyone who knew her, and especially the easy way she made us all feel important and welcome in her world. She lived through so many difficulties, but never let them change the way she shared so much of herself and her life with others. 

As I have been driving the winding way to work and back each day this month I have been watching the gradual colour change with mixed emotions. This autumn, the first one that she won’t witness with us, seems like a gift from her directly. In her absence I am looking for her in the colour and feelings of the fall all around me.

The trees are so lovely in their ever changing coppers, rusts and golds. They stand like torches against the darkening fall skies, lighting the horizon and  their impending change with courage and resilience.  

These colours are a gift to us. The leaves, in their final days, are fuller and more beautiful than they ever were in spring and summer greens. And the trees are not afraid to let go of what is ready to return to the earth. 

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Dan Millman)

It’s time to change. It’s time to let go. It’s time to let the season lead us to renewal and regeneration. In order to open ourselves to the possibility and newness of spring we need to let go and trust that the fall has a purpose. 

Letting go is scary. No anchor, no port, no steady branch to lean against – but trusting in the cycle of change gives us the freedom to become what we are supposed to be. The leaves are lighting the way. Their bold colours are a banner of bravery in the face of the unknown…

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” (quote by Erin Hanson, but she might have been channeling Margaret, who always called me darling and who championed a life of bravery, choice, passion and adventure…)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

Fly, lovely leaves, fly…
(Art by Miss G. & Gr.5…)

From the classroom...

Pop! Bang! (Back to School…)

It may be hard to believe but we are back to school already. Summers seem to come and go faster and faster every year, possibly in direct proportion to my excitement and anticipation, or maybe in relation to the lengthy list of chores I hope to accomplish…

This summer was a particularly fast one, with a dismal start (cold, cold rainy days at the outdoor pool) a disorganized middle (were we coming? going? camping? renovating? moving?!) and a then fast finish so frantic that here we are again, in September.  Boom. 


Back to school is a time that creates mixed feelings in many people. It’s exciting to reconnect with the friends and colleagues we haven’t seen all summer, and it’s fun to get all new school things (crisp unbroken crayons, shiny sharp pencils, clean white erasers and piles of notebooks – Miss G. is a connoisseur…) but the older I get and the longer I teach the more I become aware of the challenges involved too. 


For many children (teachers, parents…) the adrenaline and anxiety wrapped up in anticipation of a new school year add a lot of pressure onto what can already be an emotional time. Sleep schedules are shifting – some people can’t get enough sleep to get through the day, and some can’t stop sleeping in time to adjust to new schedules.  Eating habits are hard to get back into (only eating at the breaks?!) and that’s all before thinking about homework or practice schedules… Full stop to full blast in what feels like an instant

Emotions are close to the surface, which makes new routines and responsibilities even more challenging.  Many who normally have no problems with the expectations of daily life are stretched by new environments, new colleagues, new classmates, new programs… What might have been manageable in ideal circumstances now seems just a little bit scary. 


Sometimes the adrenaline and anticipation that get us through those first few days vanishes under a pile of books and assignments, draining the reserves of summer quicker than we thought possible, leaving us feeling more than a little bit flat…


In these opening moments give yourself creative license to get through the stops and starts of a new season.  Notice the people around you – especially the outliers and the quiet ones – who need just a little more empathy than usual…

“Empathy is strength, and an asset towards surviving and thriving in any environment. It promotes genuine curiosity about others, which facilitates a desire to teach and learn.” (Ugo Uche)

(Art by Gr.5 students…)

From the art room...

Halloween Again…

Maybe because I spend September dreaming of summer still, October seems to pass by in a moment. Suddenly the trees are half naked and the world is wet and grey, foggy and grey or just plain muddy grey.  (Side bar: Miss G. asked me today why the tree tops lose their leaves first. Any theories?  We guessed younger thinner branches mean less protection from the elements…)

So here we are at Halloween again, hoping that the torrential rain holds off for at least a bit of trick-or-treating… This will be the last time for awhile that we will see many of our neighbours! As always I am cheered by the decorations. As one of G.Jr.’s school friends knowingly told me today, decorations can make the party! She should know, she is a terrific hostess. Every year we work our way into the crawl-space storage to extract the dusty decorations bin and happily hang the various crafts we have diligently saved since preschool.

The rainy season is warmed each time by the memories and stories that go with every picture.

Perky pumpkins, haunted houses, crooked trees and skeletons…


The children start their crafting in the summer and pile up the pictures and paintings until I have time to hang them all in the hall…
Some of these decorations have been with us for close to a decade, and could probably tell a few stories of their own. In my day dreams they come to life and dance around for one Halloween night while we tramp through the neighbourhood looking for treats in layers of costumes and rubber boots…

We have decorations from the store too, here and there, but the children’s favourites are the ones they have made by hand over the years – I have written the artists name and year of creation on the back of each piece to help us remember the details…

With childlike inspiration for tonight, at least, we can all be brave with the magic of Halloween. We can laugh at things that might normally be worrisome, we can see the silliness in the scary.   We can celebrate light, life and joy in spite of the grey, wet and muddy…

Happy Halloween!

From the art room...

Autumn Leaves…

Somehow in the flurry of back-to-school the season has definitely changed. I’m testing out a new route to work this year that takes me through a kilometre or two of two-story trees; watching the leaves change colour is a wonderful way to start each day…

Fall in all its variation has enough drama to distract me from my own daily.

No matter what is happening in the natural world, however, I never really feel like fall has arrived until the school bulletin boards fill up with autumn coloured leafy paintings… This year some of the most beautiful images are fluttering through our school halls.

These first few images are “in process” from a recent afternoon I was privileged to spend with fifty first graders.  In a mad moment I thought it would be fun to paint. Turns out it was fun. And very, very messy.

We started out with muffin tins full of paint, clothes pins, sponges and pastels.

Then, we painted.

And painted… and painted!


I was inspired by how excited the children were about paint – it was hard to get pictures because they never stopped moving!  In some cases we had to physically remove paint soaked papers in order to preserve them. Completely messy, completely worth it.


It’s a little bit sad to imagine that most children never get the chance to do crazy things like paint all afternoon with reckless abandon…

Some innovative schools have integrated art therapy into their special education programs, but wouldn’t it be amazing if all schools had such amazing art programs that the need for “art therapy” disappeared? Just seeing the wild thick wet crazy paint explosion here is a kind of therapy for me…

When the paint trays were completely dry we knew we had truly painted…

I can’t have all the fun though- one of our Grade One classroom teachers made these amazing pictures with small groups of artistes

First they folded the paper in half, and then painted the tree trunks and grass. Then they squished. Next they painted one leaf colour at a time, squishing in between. After the paint was dry they washed only the bottom half in a watery blue, and painted the top half with a regular blue background. So lovely!

“O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.”

(Robert Frost, from October)

I have to include these autumn leaf prints made by our Grade Five class…


…and just a few snapshots from kindergarten to remind us what is just around the corner…

I hope you find a moment in the messy madness to relish the smells and colours and shapes of this wonderful season. Unleash the child inside that wants to paint and pile up leaves…

From the desk of...

Happy Thanksgiving!

For what we have been given, let us be truly grateful… 


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” (Epicurus)


We spend a lot of time talking about gratitude here at the Martini house. One thing I say often (so often that the mini Martinis can quote me) is this: “from those to whom much is given, much is expected.” (Aka: with great gifts come great responsibilities…). I feel that we have a great purpose in our lives – to share what we have, what we know, what we can with those who have not, know not, can not. 


“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Gratitude makes what we have enough. Love makes it even more. I hope this day brings a little bit of both your way…

From the desk of...


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During the darkness of this late fall season we are challenged to find ways to brighten our world.  Advent, as the season of preparation before Christmas, is one of my favourite times of year because these weeks of anticipation  give me a chance to appreciate the many gifts I have been blessed with, and to reflect on the ways that I can do better to bring light into the lives of others.


The lighting of the candles is a tradition from our church that I am fiercely devoted to.  Although there are many different ways to mark the weeks as they pass before Christmas and the gradual return to light I have always loved the candles and the virtues they can represent.  The first candle – four short weeks before Christmas – symbolizes HOPE.


So much more than making a wish and hoping for it to come true, hope is the virtue that holds us steadfast in the face of trial and frustration.  Hope is not just wishing for the light to return in the dark – hope exists because we know that it will.  It is the confidence in the possibility of the fulfillment of all that is good.  (Right out of the dictionary!)  Hope is therefore intricately connected to faith – that other virtue of spirit that creates an indomitable force for light by strong unshakeable belief without proof or evidence… hope.


We have hope at the end of each day because we know the earth will turn as we dream and bring us again to the light of the sun…


We have hope for the life of each child we know and love, as we see the “freshness and promise” they bring to their days and our world…


We have hope that the green life in our garden will return in the Spring, even though signs of its’ existence are hard to come by in this cold season…


Hope is the optimistic expectancy that allows us to have confidence that God and goodness will remain with us in all things. It is the innate belief that light and love will carry us through.  During this first week of Advent it is my challenge to let the sureness of hope fill me up enough to carry me through…

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” (Theodore Roethke)

Places to Go


Another road trip for the family!  We are clearly having a hard time just staying put.  (I blame House Hunters International.  Too many possibilities.)  Victoria has been on our family visit wish list for a few years and we finally had the perfect opportunity to see our provincial capital up close with the kids… a long weekend, gorgeous sunny weather, nothing else on the calendar… we packed our overnight bags (increasingly efficiently…) and headed to the ferry.

I can hardly believe my children haven’t been on this trip before – after commuting back and forth for years as I worked through my first university degree I feel like I know this Tsawassen to Swartz Bay trip so well… but it was a whole new experience to see it through their eyes.  What had become routine to me is suddenly new and amazing again…



One of my favourite parts of the trip is passing the first lighthouse at Georgina Point on Mayne Island.


It seems to mark the halfway point, and the beginning of the most scenic part of the ferry ride.  We put this particular trip on hold for so long because of the ferry cost – yikes! – but on this gorgeous day, as we sailed out from under the clouds and into the crisp, bright fall sun with ocean opening up all around us it was absolutely worth every penny.  There is no other place like this in the world…


We sailed through Active Pass, between Mayne and Galiano Islands…


…past Prevost, North Pender and Saltspring…


…and somewhere along the way we almost tipped the ferry running to the starboard side to see a pod of humpback whales…


The most fun was wandering along the top deck against the incredible wind – if we weren’t holding tight to our four-year-old we would have lost him!  He was overjoyed at the ability to “fly” and would have spent the entire boat ride out in the wind, but the lack of feeling in our ears and fingers convinced the rest of us to head below deck.

We arrived on Vancouver Island to find cold temperatures and bright sun – the lower mainland clouds were long gone.  One of the great features of downtown Victoria is the ability to walk the entire city so easily – our favourite way to travel is always to park the car and walk the town, and that is just what we did.

First stop – right next door to our downtown hotel – the provincial pavilion: (notice all the lions!)













I haven’t been to all the provinces and territories (they are on our wish list too!) but I am fiercely proud of them all.  Canada is an amazing country because of how huge and diverse we all are…)

Next to the provincial pavilion is this lovely statue:


…commemorating the men and women of  British Columbia and Canada who fought with the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion to defend the Republic of Spain during the Spanish Civil War in in the 1930s…

… right across the street is the Provincial Legislature with Queen Victoria keeping watch…




…and the soldier standing guard at the cenotaph…


…and across the street is the Grand Dame of the Victoria Harbour… the lovely Empress Hotel.  When I was younger I would go in and out of the hotel at my leisure – Mimi used to stay there when she was in town on business and the halls and passageways were so familiar to me.  This time we stayed on the outside (my children are not good in restrictive, formal environments…) but we enjoyed the gorgeous ivy covered architecture just the same.  The Empress dates back to a particular era of our country’s history – when hotels like the Palliser in Calgary and the MacDonald in Edmonton were the dowager ladies of the Railway connecting us all…

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We wandered up Government Street and down through Bastion Square, along Wharf and up Johnson, through Market Square, across Yates and down Fan Tan Alley.  So much has changed in some ways and yet the city is as quirky and wonderful as I remembered it from so many years ago.  The kids loved the architecture and the sneaky passageways; Miss G. who is halfway through the Harry Potter series was sure that the buildings looked just like Diagon Alley and Gringott’s Bank…










Even at night, since it gets dark so early in November, it is fun to walk the Victoria streets.  There are so many lights, especially around the harbour, to highlight the details in the architecture and brighten up the late fall evenings…


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After a great walk, a good meal and a typical hotel room sleep (sigh) we headed out again to visit the Royal British Columbia Museum… we had timed our visit to coincide with the last weekend of the traveling Viking exhibit.  (Part Viking, we are always up for some cultural history!)  The interactive parts of the exhibit were quite good, and I especially loved seeing the jewelry, but we are old hands at the history as we are yearly visitors to the Burnaby Scandinavian Festival too.  Our favourite part of the museum visit turned out to be the rest of it, and there is a lot…


There is just the right mix of cultural, social, natural and technological history woven together.  I am always a sucker for the dresses (and shoes…) but a few other things caught my eye.  Check out the brochure for the Union Steamship…

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The part of the museum that has changed the most since my last visit is the First People’s Gallery.  The art is striking, but the text in the galleries really had an impact…  The main hall tells the story of the indigenous languages in our province (more dialects for square kilometres than anywhere else on earth), and the challenges they face in a “modern world” that has valued assimilation over preservation. Some of the quotes were incredibly eloquent:

“Speaking our language brings life into our values.”

“Our languages hold knowledge about how to live on the land and have a good relationship with all things.”

“Our languages are inseparable from spirituality.”

“Our languages are inseparable from a unique world view.”

“Respect all living things on earth.”

“We are guided by our culture and the advice of our elders to share and always try to follow the road that make our hearts feel good.”


“Txeemsim proved that every single action or decision that human beings make is actually a moral one.  Over and over Txeemsim proves that selfish behaviour is ultimately destructive for self and society.

The deeds and misdeeds of Txeemsim show that every creature in the universe and every person in society has a rightful and meaningful role to play – that we need each other and must learn from our mistakes.”

“Our lives, our  culture and our continued existence as a people are completely tied to the land.  The code also instructs us not to use strong language, not to insult those who oppose us.  We are taught to respect everyone’s way of life.”


(This picture is for Mimi – it reminded me of your naughty dogs…)

After a long treasure hunt through the entire museum from top to bottom we had worked up a huge appetite so we walked along the side streets to Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay.  The float home community is amazing…

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…big anchor for the treasure hunt…

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…local wildlife…

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On the other side of our hotel, just past the legislature and the museum, is the huge expanse of Beacon Hill Park, which we hope to get a chance to see on our next visit.  (Also on that list is Craigdarroch Castle – I have never been inside!)  We did take time to stop by Mile 0 and pay our respects to Terry Fox.  He never got the chance to dip his legs in the Pacific Ocean at the end of his cross country trip, but his memory stands at the edge of our country looking out at the great stretch of blue and reminds all of us that some things are always worth standing up for…

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With another long weekend winding down we retraced our steps back to the ferry and sailed home for a rest…

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…but this little glimpse of Mount Baker to the south has me thinking about driving down through Washington some time sooner than later! (Can’t shake the wanderlust…)


From the desk of...


Suddenly it is November. The weather is already cold and wet, and the time change makes the drive home after work darker and somehow a little bit unnerving.

With the change of calendar I am always reminded of our Grade Two class’ favourite poem:

“No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November! ”

(Thomas Hood)

And yet the memories of summer are not that long ago… our staff spent the end of our day at the farm relaxing at Crescent Beach – soaking the end of summer into our work weary selves enough to sustain us through the darkening days and escalating chores of the school year.

Now at the beginning of November, when the tempest tossed trees are leafless and when the rain battered gardens beyond my windows seem lifeless, it is so important to look for the light and cheer I stored away. It’s there for you too – no matter how deep down…

“Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light.” (Theodore Roethke)

Find the light of summer there to guide you through the darker days. Look out at the horizon and find inspiration.  Breathe in the autumn air and know that summer still lives in it – it is all around us and fills our lungs with life as we journey through the seasons…

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

I remember this being my mother’s favourite bible passage when I was small.  (A child of the mid-century revolution, she sang along with the Byrds version often and this is how it lingers in my memory…)  As I read it now with my “grown up” eyes I see so much more beauty in the simplicity of these words…  This is it.  This life, this November, this memory of summer – this is one moment and this is forever.  The seasons change and time changes but we have only to be happy, to do good, and to find satisfaction in our toil…

“What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. (Ecclesiastes 3)”

We ended our day at Crescent Beach in the tiny little church – Star of the Sea, of course – contemplating the work to be done and the burdens to bear over the seasons ahead.  Although we can’t fathom what is to come, although we may not see the beauty in the moments, we serve with happy hearts because we carry it all together, and with it the eternity of the human heart.

From the desk of...


And just like that… it’s fall.  Starting with the first yellow leaf that caught my eye on the long road from Appenzell to Lake Garda, the summer leaves have given up their ambitious greens one by one in favour of their rich and vibrant autumn colours…

And just like that – with a swirl of wind – we have been blown into another school year.  As the colours of the summer fade into our memory, we face the new year’s many challenges.  There are needs to be met in every direction and a lot of our time is spent feeling unsettled and “adrift”…  Life as a teacher is a whirlwind on the best of days and can leave us feeling overwhelmed.  Time has a way of speeding up in those moments; they seem to slip away like the autumn leaves.  On the upside – spending time with kids in any season makes the colours so much more vibrant.  Just looking at the great big world with child-coloured glasses is enough to change perspective completely – they see the world in terms of now!  It is impossible not to join in the celebration.














The joyful colours of leaves and pumpkins and corn mazes bring some joy to a season that might otherwise be a stressful time.  We are reminded to look around us, to breathe deeply, and to find the moments of calm and quiet that help to make our daily life so rich and full.  Speaking of full – we mustn’t forget the joys of being grateful!


Robert Frost (from A Boy’s Will, 1915)
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“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.”