The first time Hilary remembers trying to write was on her first day in the primary school she went to in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was born and raised. She saw the little boy sitting in the desk beside her and thought it would be a whole lot more fun to poke him gently with the pencil than it would be to write with it… The teacher saw her prodding him playfully and scolded her furiously, making her sit under the desk for the rest of the lesson saying “ if you are going to behave like an animal I am going to treat you like one.” Not a promising start to the art of writing!
Hilary grew up living a couple of miles from the centre of the city of Edinburgh where she would divide her time between exploring the downtown streets and heading away from the city to the green hills in the other direction. On the one hand she loved the hustle and bustle of the city with its tourists and locals all mingling together along the pavement and on the other, she also loved the nearby farms and the wildness of the open spaces in the country rain.
Her favourite class at school was English and she used to write poems regularly to express her teenage turbulence. She then went on to study social work at the University of Edinburgh, which interested her greatly.
Hilary’s first job was in Glasgow, Scotland, working in a house with women who were homeless and who had been barred from the regular shelters because of their mental health issues. These amazing women taught Hilary rich and powerful life lessons. She remembers their amazing capacity to use the most intriguing, colourful and highly expressive swear words that would put any writer to shame!
Hilary also spent a lot of time working with urban youth who conflicted with the law and came to an adventure camp on the remote Scottish islands of Iona and neighbouring Mull. She developed a love for this place, for the sea and the hills and it helped to nurture her outdoor passion. She also spent a year in India as a volunteer; a sobering and unique time of her life
Then she met a met a lovely man from Canada and after living together in her hometown for a while, she agreed somewhat reluctantly to cross the ocean. They lived in Montreal to begin with but he had strong ties to the Gatineau Hills and so they would visit regularly. They moved to Ottawa and then with three children in tow- all amazing daughters- they moved to Aylmer and then finally just a few years ago to live in the old log house on the farm near Lascelles that once belonged to her in-laws .
She has continued on with social work, working mainly with people who experience homelessness, and she has worked in this field for most of her career.
She enjoys the peace of her porch, the garden with zucchinis the size of baseball bats, and going for long walks in the bush with her dog, Robbie. She remains an avid hiker and goes regularly (when the borders are not closed) to the Adirondack mountains where she “hikes her brains out.” She has now climbed all 46 of the peaks there that are over 4000 ft .
She is excited to be a blog contributor and as she has always enjoyed writing and so looks forward to sharing her stories with you, as you drink your Sunday morning coffee. She hopes you will enjoy reading them as much as she enjoys writing them.
Laurie Gough is a journalist and award-winning author of three memoirs with over twenty of her stories anthologized in literary travel books. She has been a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail, and has written for The Guardian, The L.A. Times, Maclean’s, The Walrus, USA Today, Salon.com, The National Post, Canadian Geographic, among others. Her work has been translated into several languages and she has been teaching memoir and travel writing for 20 years. Laurie spent much of her twenties and early thirties hitchhiking alone around several continents, living in caves and hollowed-out redwood trees, and teaching school in Canada’s sub-Arctic, Fiji, Malaysia, and Guelph, Ontario. After years of searching for the ideal place to live she feels so lucky to have discovered the wonderfully wacky community of Wakefield where she has been living with her family for the past 17 years.(See: http://www.lauriegough.com)
Yolande Henry – Born in South Africa, the daughter of a Canadian Foreign Service Officer, I was to spend 16 years of my life overseas. In 1969, we left a small town in Germany for something completely different, the sprawling capital comprised of old and new Delhi, India. Every summer when the heat descended my family would travel. On two occasions, this meant spending a month in the Gatineau Hills. Driving on the old highway, stopping at Ormes Bakery, we headed north to Lake Pemichangan where, thanks to old friends of my parents, we enjoyed the essence of a Canadian summer cottaging. For me, it defined Canada, and took root in my heart.
Fast forward to 1985. I was introduced to Linda Gorka of “Wakefield Grannies” renown, and then property manager of a townhouse in Ottawa’s west end. My husband and then two children and I, having left the burgeoning city of Toronto behind, were happy to take up residence there while the homeowner went on assignment to Ethiopia. Due to conflict in the Horn of Africa, she returned after only one year and we moved again, now with a third child, to Alta Vista.
The Pleasant Park Woods and Grasshopper Hill was the natural world which gave us refuge and defined our community. I became very involved in community life and wrote for two local newspapers, including a human-interest column in the Vistas. When my daughter was born in 1986, I wrote a children’s story which was illustrated with original watercolours by my neighbour, a former RAF pilot, and old-school gentleman, Mr. Frank Rogers. One of the many special people in my neighbourhood.
I was Environmental Director for the Alta Vista Community Association and led campaigns to cut back on excess packaging and stop the cosmetic use of pesticides. My family biked everywhere, and we were carless for 7 years. In 1990, I joined forces with a neighbour to create a Canadian chapter of the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN). My work with WEN introduced me to incredible master gardener and activist, Ann Cleary, whose husband was an organic dairy farmer. While Ann and I lobbied the government against the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), Ann also became a mentor to my husband, Steve, whose interest in organic growing led to Ann carving out a quarter acre of land on her farm outside Carleton Place in which he could hone his skills.
By the mid-nineties, with a growing interest in “cultivating our garden” and a chance conversation with a Pleasant Park school connection, we ended up connecting with Wakefield real estate agent, John Plaskacz. Not long thereafter we were traipsing through fields of Goldenrod to discover our Shangri La, a property John and his brother owned, and which was in fact, the first property we looked at!
After much wandering the road and Wakefield connections led us home to where the heart is, and shall be.
Jenny Currie – Born in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, I identify as an Air Force brat. The Forces lifestyle shaped me in many ways. My siblings and I developed a profound love for the natural Canada and its varied peoples. We camped, fished and hiked in every province and lived in most of them. I always felt grateful for the country’s bounties. The stunning beauty of the Rockies and craggy shorelines of Nova Scotia, all filled me with awe as a child. I imagine my spirit was always full; as gratitude, curiosity and wonder continue to be my constant companions. This arguably privileged upbringing was advantageous, and had its demerits as well. Each time we moved, we were the “new kids”, we had to start over. Each new neighbourhood presented us with challenges to adapt and adjust. I was the social butterfly of our family, and was fortunate to make friends quickly, however, for many years I felt rootless, and was aware of a strong need to belong somewhere. I met and married another Air Force brat who had many similar posts as a child and after being footloose during our early married life, we finally settled into our tiny home on Fraser Lake, just a few minutes shy of the village.
We have been here thirty years. It is the longest either one of us have ever lived in one spot.
Recently retired, I am now able to immerse myself fully in all my passions. Flowers, birds, trees, water and mountains surround us, so much to be passionate about. The talents of our village folks inspire me and there is such a lovely eclectic assortment of characters, artsy, musical, gifted, compassionate and quirky. I meet a new interesting, talented person every week and invariably I am motivated to try something new, following enthusiastic conversations with them about their latest crazes.
I love to write, hike, swim, create concrete garden ornaments, and sing, and gardening is my first love. Planting an itsy Amaranthus seed and watching it grow into a 6 foot “love lies bleeding” is arousing, and it inspires and encourages my soul. Planting trees and bulbs and knowing they will be here long after I am gone, gives me a sense of history on my own property. Living things help me feel rooted, and keep my feet firmly on the ground. Here in the hills, I have found my home, at long last.
Gill(y)ie Griffin is a relative newcomer to Wakefield, having lived in the village for a a little shy of three years. She was born, and raised just outside the city of Stoke-on-Trent, England and lived for a large part of her adult life in the UK. Gill(y)ie was born under the Zodiac sign, Gemini, and, while not a big believer in astrology, in company with many of those born under Gemini’s sign, she recognizes that she has two distinct sides to her personality.
Gilly is a physiologist by training, and worked as a research scientist for a number of years. Like many other physiologists, during her research studies she developed a deep concern for the animals she was using. When forced to take a break from the lab bench to give birth to her son, her work took a different direction, and she began a life long career in the area of animal ethics.
In the meantime, Gillie married, raised two children and became interested in (non-academic) writing. She received a regional arts council grant in 1992 to develop a sequence of poems and participated in a “New Voices “ reading tour in 1993.
In 1994, thanks to the draconian policies of the Thatcher government, Gill(y)ie and her Canadian husband, Huffy, moved the family to Canada, settling in Aylmer where Huffy grew up. The kids changed their accents, grew, became no-longer-kids and left, and eventually in 2016 Gilly(y)ie and Huffy found their ideal next home in Wakefield.
Gilly continues to work in Ottawa, commuting daily with her fellow travellers on the magic Transcollines bus. On her way home, somewhere just north of Chelsea, the “y” falls away and she picks up an “i” and an “e” and knits her way back to Gillie, to Huffy, and to the wonderful community where she feels truly at home.
Born in the north of British Columbia I grew up on a small plot of family land with three sisters, two horses, one cow and more dogs and cats than I can remember. Being a family of four tall, blonde, formidable girls was hard….on my Dad. We, however, had a blast.
My parents were loving, fairly traditional folks. We often woke to my Dad playing his fiddle and arrived home from school on a good day to the warmth of my Mom’s fresh bread. I suspect if there had been a brother around we would have been relegated to the interior of the house; however, there was not, and we subsequently did everything from splitting wood, to stacking hay, to feeding the chickens who in turn helped to feed us. No need to mention what fate befell the poor moose that happened to stumble across our property during hunting season. Oh, and there were bees..lots and lots of bees…
Our village was small and flanked by several reservations which together made for a colourful and delightful cast of characters. There were a couple of hot cars, at least 3 handsome boys and one long main street which was in fact the highway. On any given Friday the boys would drive back and fourth, ready to oblige decked out teenage girls ( new sweatshirt, crimped hair and from time to time too much blush) in need of a ride to the local gravel pit party or to the lake for a swim. We hung out with friends, built forts, partied, hiked the hills, swam all summer long and snowmobiled and ice fished in winter. On date night we went to the Beacon movie theatre to watch what was called a ‘new’ film even though it had been released nation wide at least 12 months before.
** I would not change a thing or trade a moment** .
At 18 I was ready to leave and set off to greet the world. My interests in the outdoors took me to the West Coast and then to Jasper which sealed my love for the mountains and for international encounters. It seemed to me the whole world came to Jasper.
When I travel I walk.
The landscapes of New Zealand, mainland Australia, Tasmania, Nepal, India, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and most recently autour de Mont Blanc and the alps of France, Switzerland and Italy have shaped me, and in one way or another have lead me here, to this special village I call home where I live with my fella, our two dogs and one very magical cat.
Wakefield; where a river runs through it and the Gatineau Hills hold court.
Of course I still love a good adventure.. and a good long walk. Stay tuned.