Humans are meant to express their creativity. Whether you like to play music, dance, write poetry, write short stories or novels, paint, sculpt and/or make film, it is vitally important to allocate time on a regular basis to feed and sustain your creative impulses. In my family, I have been surrounded by artists. Whether it is through the paintings of my wife Rashne, our daughter Jasmine’s socially analytical ceramic art (recent news), or our son Cyrus’ film-making, I have been inspired by them to express my own creativity. This section of my website contains the products of this work.
I have done a lot of technical writing during my career as an engineer and as a university professor. But a few years back I decided that I needed to take up some form of creative writing, to express some ideas and to have some fun. And as a kid I loved Beatrix Potter books, with their frontispiece sketches at the start of every chapter. So I took to doing a wee sketch for the start of every chapter of my creative writing pieces, and now I think I enjoy the sketching as much or more as the writing itself. This work has led to a number of pieces, which are described below, and are available for reading as a pdf file.
My first attempt at creative writing was to write a non-chronological trilogy of key chapters in the life of our beloved family dog, Rocky. Rocky was a tri-colour Sheltie, and was described by a dear family friend as ‘Love on four legs’. So this pdf file is titled the “LOFL Trilogy plus Coda”. The Coda piece was sadly inspired by the events around Rocky’s passing, and is included here as a separate pdf file titled “Liftoff into the Light”. Fair warning, this last piece may elicit tears, particularly from those who love dogs.
The next piece of creative writing I took on revolved around our second family dog, Buddy. Buddy was a Chihuahua/Pomeranian/Jack Russell mix, who had been rescued by my mother-in-law in California. He journeyed north to fill the void from Rocky’s passing when Ma had to go into a care facility, and this trilogy depicts the various chapters in this lovely little dog’s life.
The Spencer Creek Trilogy
I then went on to write a trilogy series of connected novellas, set in my adopted hometown of Dundas, ON. They are written in reverse chronological order, and weave in my interests in environmental sustainability and in spirituality. I am an optimist at heart, and I see life as an amazing learning opportunity as long as we open our hearts and begin to acknowledge we are spiritual beings having a physical experience on this beautiful globe. So the first novella describes what our world could be like sometime in the not-too-distant future, if we acknowledge our true essence. The second novella is set a few years in time before the first, and shows a community in transition. The last novella is set in current time, and depicts the world we now experience with all of its darkness and negative thinking. But as the songwriter cat Stevens wrote, “Somewhere on the edge of darkness, rides a Peace Train…” So it’s up to all of us to shine the Light on our individual and collective darkness, and that’s what this work is promoting.
Bertram and Vera
My original family had a sad element in its story, as we had an uncle who fell in WWII who we had
never had the chance to meet.
The Saugeen River Trilogy
Some say writing is therapy, for the person who writes it and for the people who read it and identify with the characters or the situations. I decided to do some writing therapy through the depiction of a kid going through the gauntlet of high-school in the 70s in my hometown of Walkerton, Ontario. It’s semi-autobiographical, which made the writing a bit tricky. Most of it is based on actual events, but some events and some characters are fictional. It depicts the time and the culture and the headspace of an adolescent kid. As a result, it is not politically correct by today’s standards or norms.
The Taddle Creek Trilogy
And if some writing therapy is good, why not more? I then decided to do some writing therapy through the depiction of a young man going through university in the late seventies, early eighties in Toronto, Ontario. It’s also semi-autobiographical, which made the writing a bit challenging. Most of it is based on actual events, but some events and some characters are fictional. It depicts the time and the culture and the headspace of a young man teetering on the brink of near-maturity. As a result, it is not politically correct by today’s standards or norms.
The River Canard Trilogy
I’m not sure why, but I always wanted to learn more about The Underground Railroad, and write something that related to this important social justice initiative. Some field research at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, and some contemplative time on a bench down by Amherstburg’s impressive waterfront, quickly led to a rough outline of a trilogy of novellas that connect a fictitious tobacco farm in North Carolina to this small town in southwestern Ontario. Some violence is recounted in this work, reflecting the inherent violence in slavery as a flawed, oppressive and inequitable socioeconomic system. But in the end, the power and beauty of the human spirit shines through and dominates this story.
Elsa, the Nomadic Arctic Fox
The news story about the wee Arctic fox that ran along the sea ice from the Norwegian territory of Spitzbergen to Ellesmere Island in northern Canada really grabbed my imagination. I had been thinking about doing a first stab at a graphic novella, so this seemed like the perfect inspiration. And having a mini Eskie doggie named Sunny, who bears an uncanny resemblance to an Arctic fox, sealed the deal.
My wife Rashne and I have been involved since the early 90s in conserving the lands north of Cootes Paradise in Dundas. It was originally referred to as the Pleasant View lands, then it was referred to as the Dundas EcoPark, and now it is formally recognized as the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System (which has both Hamilton and Burlington components under its overall umbrella). There have been a lot of twists and turns on the road to protecting this land as greenspace, and it is now starting to come to its full fruition as a very special ecological treasure. These are the ancestral lands of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, specifically the Princess Point Culture of the Woodlands Period. We believe wholeheartedly that some energetic connection from these indigenous ancestors has protected, and is protecting, this land. Along with our friend and collaborator Margaret Rees, we can feel this presence as a strong feminine energy that is weaving her magic to help the land rebirth to its former natural glory. Meditating and connecting to this presence has created a narrative of how this all came about, and this story is captured in this graphic novel as a way of honouring her presence and encouraging her further work.
The Hamilton Conservation Foundation had announced a campaign for the Dundas Gateway portion of the EcoPark (now referred to as Canal Park) and for acquisition of Pleasant View lands. Some of us were looking for ways to help with fund-raising, and then Mark Chamberlain called one morning and offered a free helicopter and pilot and camera technician to go up and capture the beauty of these lands from an aerial perspective. This was my first opportunity to be a film director, and from the aerial footage we decided we needed terrestrial images and interviews of key players. Wade Genders and Glen Prevost went out and filmed all of this, Wade Genders provided expert editing, Dr. Matt Woolhouse provided original music, Julia Kollek did the narration, and Rashne Baetz provided co-direction on the script and the final editing. All in all, this was a fun and rewarding community engagement project.