Autumn and Johann Sebastian Bach

As soon as the first leaves of Autumn flame into colour and begin wafting to the ground, I get an itch to listen to Johann Sebastian Bach.

There is something about Autumn and Bach that just go together, like the wafer and the creamy centre of an Oreo cookie. Take them apart and they’re yummy, but together … they’re fabulous!

I don’t know where this all started. Maybe it was that, in September, summer holidays over, it was time to get back to school and piano lessons. Back into choosing and preparing pieces for the next spring’s Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) piano exams. For those of you not well versed in RCM graded piano books and exams, let me explain: Every exam required one piece each to be prepared from List A, List B, List C, and in later grades, List D.

List A consisted of music pieces written during the Baroque period. And that’s where J.S. Bach fits. Naturally, the piano teacher would list the List A piece first in my music notebook, and I, being the strict item-follower I am, would study this piece first every time I sat down to practice.

I have always gravitated to Bach’s music. There is something so ordered, so mathematical, so solid and trustworthy in his music. He never lets me down. Most, if not all, of his piano pieces end on the tonic. We are not left hanging somewhere in limbo – a state of uncertainty where there is no freedom to let go of the breath you’ve been holding. There’s a solid Amen at the end. And by that I mean The End. Fine.

Does anybody else remember those short television episodes that played in the 60’s and 70’s? I don’t even know what the show was called, but the story was about a mouse – a real mouse. This little mouse traveled in a real, tiny boat down a tiny stream. In the background a harpsichord played J.S. Bach. As a girl, I was transfixed by those little vignettes. Maybe that’s where my great love for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach began.

For me, Winter, Spring, and Summer are straight forward seasons. Winter means snow, hockey, mitts and scarves, hot chocolate and fireplaces. Spring has one theme: spring forth! Summer brings warmth and more time for friends and fun.

But Fall!

As in Bach’s music, there is so much happening in Fall. Intricacies we are not even aware of. One day is warm, the next chilly. Whole trees will burst out in colour while their brothers right next to them hang on to green. Evenings, like Bach, are crisp, and foster clear- headedness and renewed thinking, rejuvenated and remolded ideas. There is laid-back urgency in the air. I feel I can achieve anything in the Fall.

Normally I listen to J.S. Bach’s piano works, but this year I happened on to some history on his cantatas:

– Between the years 1723-1729, Bach composed one cantata for every regular and occasional church service in the year. This is at least one cantata a week! More than 52 cantatas a year!! Considering the shortest cantata I could find online is 28 minutes long, this is beyond amazing.

– Of the 350 cantatas he composed, only 209 have survived. The rest were sold off in bulk to be used as paper to wrap meat, fish, and cheese. Insert horror-faced emoji here.


I’m gaining a new appreciation for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. Maybe you will too as you sit by your fireplace or take a walk, music in earbuds, on a crisp Autumn evening.


Have a listen and enjoy:

Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 847, Anthony Newman, Harpsichord


Canada’s own Glenn Gould plays the same Prelude in C minor on Piano


Cantata: Magnificat in D major, BWV 243






Out of Boxes


You know those forms you have to fill out where you check the box in front of your age?

[ ]  20-30

[ ]   31-44

[ ]   45-54

[ ]   55+


Today I am checking the last box.

I’m out of boxes.


My thoughts progress from mild surprise, to contemplation, to downright rage:

Huh. No more boxes. I wonder what this means? Is life as I know it now over? Do I really have nothing to look forward to anymore? Who the heck decided this would be the last box, anyway? What is wrong with people? Don’t they know there’s life after 55?

 And why am I getting lumped in with the 90-year-olds!!!?


I take a deep breath, wipe the frown lines from my forehead. (Because, after all, now that I’m old I don’t need to encourage any more wrinkles up there)

I look at that checklist again. I have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with checklists.

I love making them.

We will do this and then we will do this and this, and when all the things are done, life will be grand. Falalalala lala   LA.   LA!


Once the checklists are made, however, my life has a certain stress until everything on the list is checked off. Many times I’ve made a list for the day, only to come to the realization (as I work like a mad scientist, trying to get it all done) that the list I’ve made for the day will actually take me a week, maybe more, to complete.

Because, I can make the list, but I can’t always predict how the list will go.

One of the things on my list could be as simple as

[ ]  Wash the dishes

Only, I didn’t know that the cat would throw up all over my new couch; that the dryer would conk out, forcing me to hang the laundry outside; and that chatty old Aunt Marg would drop over for tea.

I LOVE chatting with chatty old Aunt Marg. But you see, I have a list.


Over the years, through my

[x] 20-30’s

[x] 31-44’s

[x] 45-54’s

I’ve had to learn that lists aren’t the be-all and the end-all.

Sometimes you have to make room between the lines.


I look at the list and mentally check the box,

[x] 55+

Then the AHA moment comes …

Hey, the list is done! All checked off. Stress over!

And look at all the time I have left to do the fun things. Let’s see …

 Bucket List

  1. Sky diving …


Oh Canada



We camped.

That’s what we did every summer when I was growing up.

My birthday is at the end of July and I don’t remember many birthdays at home. Our temporary home was a used tent trailer.


I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents were giving my brothers and me a priceless treasure. We traveled from coast to coast. And as I look back on it now, I understand where my love of this great country – Canada – comes from. It comes from those summers of traveling with my family.


Every year, Dad would plot our trips. He usually started a month in advance. I remember him at the kitchen table with maps in front of him, and that camping reference book – I think it was from CAA. It listed campgrounds, how many sites they had, how much they charged, whether or not they had flush toilets and showers, etc.


Back in those days we couldn’t go online to check it out or to register. We didn’t call ahead. We just showed up, expecting a good spot. And we usually got it. I remember only one time when we arrived to a completely full campground, and we set up in a gravel pit instead. I also remember many times that Dad would leave our cash payment (anywhere from $6 – $12 over the years) in an unlocked wooden box when we left. I doubt if you could do that nowadays. (Mom tells me that our first year of camping we bought a National Park sticker for $7 and the total camping fee we had all summer was $20.)


Mom didn’t relish getting ready for camping. When we got older, my brothers and I had to pack our own clothing, and entertainment for car travel, but she had her same lists from year to year … everybody’s clothing, toiletries, kitchen gadgets, linens, bedding, pots and pans, games, first aid, food. And she spent about a week shopping, gathering, and packing. But she did enjoy the camping once all of that was taken care of.


I am so grateful they took the time for this because as I look back now, I understand. I understand it was a great undertaking, but also a great privilege to experience my country. I understand now that not everybody has this chance. When you’re a kid you just assume everybody does what you do. But I’ve learned that not everyone grew up with the amazing opportunity I had to absorb my own vast country. Thanks, Mom & Dad.


What wonderful memories we made:

Barkerville, BC


Panning for gold in Barkerville, BC

Drumheller, AB

Riding a dinosaur in Drumheller, AB

Visiting the RCMP training grounds in Regina, SK

Touring the International Peace Gardens in Boissevain, MB

Feeling the spray of Niagara Falls, ON

Roaming the halls of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, ON

Exploring Old Quebec City and the Plains of Abraham, QC


International Peace Gardens

Watching the Reversing Falls Rapids in Saint John, NB

Climbing Citadel Hill in Halifax, NS

Marching at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, NS

Pretending at Green Gables, PEI


These were fun tourist attractions full of history and fascination. But more than that, I learned to appreciate the geography of this wonder-inspiring country.

Columbia Ice Fields, AB/BC

I’ve clambered over the smooth stoned Pacific coast and listened to waves lapping the shore. I’ve wandered the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island and breathed in healing salty air. I’ve played in cool lakes that were so clear I could see the bottom through four feet of water. I’ve run screaming through long grassy fields, scaring up grasshoppers, squinted across sun-skimmed ice fields, and splashed in hot springs surrounded by mountains whose crowns disappeared into clouds.

All before I grew up and left home.

What a gift!

Rushing River Provincial Park, ON


And what a treasure, this country.

Oh Canada! I am so blessed to call it my home and native land.













As I was inserting a pacifier into my newborn grandson’s mouth, I caught my mother’s hand doing the same in the reflection of the mirror opposite him.

Myriads of thoughts happened in that instant.

But the first one, as I glanced down at my hands, was, Are these my mother’s hands?

Then, Yes they are, in more ways than one.

Hands that were once smooth and unfurrowed, now show creases and blue-veined rumples. Delicate fragility hides the strength they represent, and the hard things they have encountered. From the feather-light stroke on a newborn’s cheek, to the unyielding grip on a defiant teenage girl’s wrist, to the lively bustle of caring for the grown girl’s children.

By the time I leave my daughter’s home in this quaint Manitoba lake-town, I will have been here five weeks. Five weeks of cradling, changing, pacifying, and getting to know newborn twins. Five weeks of cuddling and entertaining their beyond-energetic three-year-old brother. Five weeks of filling in the gaps – those things newborn moms & dads need help with or don’t have time for. Doubly so when the baby is twins. Things like emptying the dishwasher, filling the dishwasher, folding laundry, sterilizing bottles, wiping counters, dressing the preschooler, or running back to the living room to quickly tidy up as we’re all walking out the door for an outing.

Besides the busy-hands type of help, there’s the being alert kind of help. Like understanding the half spoken sentences that trail off into nothingness from a foggy, sleep deprived mom or reminding her that her coffee cup is still on top of the vehicle.

All these things my mother did for me when I was the sleep deprived mom of newborns.

Life has come full circle.

These are the thoughts that flitted across my mind as I caught my mother’s hand reflected in the mirror opposite my grandson.


I am my mother’s reflection

Reflecting back at me

My hand reflecting hers

In the reflection that I see,

Causing me to reflect

On reflections.