Archive for the ‘Notes on Writing and Life’ Category

Focus on What Really Matters

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

Dear Friends:

Eleven years ago I was in Toronto to celebrate the birthdays of my mother, Mary, and my sister, Judy. A few days into the visit, I was with my mother in her upstairs bedroom when an inspiration came to ask if she’d like to pick a heart card. “Yes,” she said, her eyes brightening as she reached into the blue glass vase I held out to her. Squinting down at the card, she read “Focus on what really matters,” and reaching down into the vase for my own card, I was surprised to see the same message. Clearly it was important for me to be here at this time. My mother would be turning eight-five in a few days. Six months earlier, with several health conditions, it seemed she wouldn’t make it to this point.

Over the next five years I made many more trips to Toronto to see my mother, whose health challenges were multiplying. It felt important to be part of this stage of her life and help make her transition easier. In the summer of 2014, she died in a west-end retirement home after her second stroke. After her funeral and the closing date of our family home of fifty-two years, I flew back home to Salt Spring Island. My life seemed profoundly changed in many ways. I began writing about what I was going through in my journal and in poems about my mother’s last year, which seemed necessary and critical to my grieving process. With each poem that arrived on the page a bit of the loss I was feeling was released. Finally, after five years, I finished a poem about the arc of light hovering over my mother as she lay in her bed the day before she died (the arc was clearly visible in a photograph I’d taken for my youngest brother’s birthday). The poems felt complete.

As such, it gives me great pleasure to announce that my friend and colleague Diana Hayes has published this suite of twenty poems as the second book in her new publishing venture, Raven Chapbooks. Arc of Light is an exquisite forty-seven page art book, with a stunning cover, innovative design, and unique touches such as endpapers made with bits of Tamarind tree leaves (see the attached press release). As poet and writer Vanessa Shields has said, “Nothing can prepare a daughter’s heart for the loss of her mother, and it feels safe and necessary to remain under the veil of their death. But true love – that undeniable light exchange between souls – transcends time and space as we ‘carry the dead’ into our own precious living. True love is ‘all softness and light’ as Gane so powerfully unfolds into the pages of this beautiful, moving chapbook.”

There are only a hundred copies, which are going quickly, so if you’d like a book you can email me or  click here. I’ll be reading from Arc of Light at a Zoom book launch organized by the Salt Spring Library on November 30 at 7 p.m. (Pacific Time); details are below.

As we navigate the ninth month of Covid lockdowns, the message my mother and I received back in 2009 has never seemed so vital. “Focus on what really matters” is a call to remember what truly sustains and nourishes us during difficult times such as these—the bonds of love we share with our loved ones, our communities, and all beings in the world.

With Love


Zoom Poetry Reading November 30, 7 p.m.

with Lorraine Gane reading from Arc of Light

Join the zoom meeting at:

Meeting ID: 889 4802 3447, or dial by your location +1 647 374 4685 Canada, +1 647 558 0588 Canada, +1 778 907 2071 Canada, +1 204 272 7920 Canada, +1 438 809 7799 Canada, +1 587 328 1099 Canada.


Mystery, Fertility, and Writing

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

The other morning after I left our cottage and started walking along the path, I noticed two fawns looking at me intently from the field, their fur darkened from the overnight rain. Farther along the path their mother peered at me over the fence with black luminous eyes. Later, on my return walk, they were still in the field grazing and watching me.

I thought of how deer symbolize quickness, innocence, grace, and “the fertile power of the forest” in some native traditions and as I contemplated this sighting as a totem I felt grateful I had the morning to sink deep into the space of writing after a busy couple days.

Time to write feels so precious and necessary. When I can relax into the deep space of writing I sense a connection to my inner being, the core of my centre. And if I truly relax, new possibilities arise on the page. I enter a world of mystery and fertility in which anything can arise on the page. Such was the case that day. Words flowed easily on a topic I longed to engage in.

If you are longing for a sanctuary to write, please join me December 1 for another Writing as a Spiritual Practice retreat here on the island. The retreat will be a gentle entry into the practice of writing for deeper awareness, expression, and transformation. If this appeals to you, please register early as spaces fill quickly for this retreat. For more details please see below.

For those who can’t come to the island, please have a look at my self-paced online courses (click here) for one that interests you.

Stay tuned for announcements about some exciting events for 2019, including a weekend retreat for nourishment and creativity next summer.

And here’s a five-minute writing practice to encourage new writing.

As we move deeper into fall, may you be blessed with greater opportunity to rest within and write what you long to express.

With Love



Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Participants will explore how writing can open untapped sources of insight, understanding, inspiration, and wisdom. Beginning with gentle movement and meditative practices to still the mind and relax the body, they will engage in a series of writing sessions to open awareness to what may be hidden in their own inner recesses. The opening allows buried feelings, thoughts, and images to be brought back to the whole. This often frees up blocked energy, offers new possibilities and deeper connection to innate vitality, joy, creativity, and well-being. Over the past twenty-five years. Lorraine Gane has discovered ways to help writers at all levels to find their truest expression and creativity, through workshops, online courses, consultations, and her skilled editing. Her poetry, essays, articles, and reviews have been widely published and she is author of several collections of poetry, including Even the Slightest Touch Thunders Under My Skin and The Blue Halo. She is now completing several projects, among them a book on writing. Please bring a bag lunch, notebook, and pen and wear comfortable clothing. Cost: $30 at the door. St. Mary’s, 2600 Fulford Ganges Road. Registration required –

Invitation, Possibility, and Depth

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility and depth

–John O’Donohue

Dear Friends:

The other day on a morning break, I walked down the lane into the soggy field by the creek and gazed up at the blazing sun. The warmth and brightness of the light felt particularly inviting, given the previous two days of dark skies and nonstop rain. In fact, had it rained so much during those days the creek was gushing with water and on a couple occasions I had to forego my usual crossing point for one farther downstream. Here I leapt from one bank to the other, which felt exhilarating. I realized how much I missed leaping, so I made the decision to do it more often, not only on my excursions around the island, but also in my creative work and life.

When I was working as an editor at Toronto Life magazine in the late 1980s but wishing to write, the publisher, told me “all artists must leap.” His advice was the catalyst to help me quit my full-time job to become a freelancer, fulfilling one of my deepest desires.

While leaping can be scary, it brings immense rewards. And the leaps we make can be a small as taking fifteen minutes to write about a pivotal moment or a half-hour to complete a story we’ve written, especially if we haven’t given ourselves permission to take any creative time. The leap may also be to look at everything in your world with loving eyes, and as O’Donohue wrote, see the invitations, possibilities, and depth that await you.

In my new ten-week program “Writing as a Sacred Journey,” which now starts February 15, one of the core practices is to connect to the heart, from which you can look with loving eyes at everything around you to open to what you’ve been missing. Life then becomes an invitation, a journey to explore deeper awareness, joy, wonder, and other gifts.

The course will also offer many other practices, enriching and renewing your life. You can engage in the practices for as little as two hours a week to receive immense benefits. Included in this self-paced course are: ten email packages with discussions and practices, a one-on-one hour consultation and half-hour follow up in person, phone, or Skype, a private website to share comments/writing with others, and email support. Contact me if you have questions or would like to register.

May the seeds you’ve gathered all winter be nurtured to germinate and flower in coming months.

With Love


Ongoing: one-on-one consultations and manuscript development/editing

Keys to the Creative Muse

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Eight years ago American author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED Talk on creativity and where it comes from. At the time her book Eat, Pray, Love was a mega sensation, selling millions of copies around the world. Yet people would ask her, “Aren’t you afraid you’re not going to top that?” This started her contemplating why anyone would be afraid to do what they loved to do and she began investigating the concept of the creative muse. If it’s assumed that creativity comes from the writer, this creates a lot of pressure. If it’s understood that creativity comes from a higher source, this frees the writer of the burden of responsibility. Elizabeth discovered the ancient Romans thought creative genius came from the muse or the source, which she said is a better way of thinking about it because this puts the onus on the muse, rather than the mere mortal of the writer to create something unique.

Elizabeth said she had once met poet Ruth Stone, then in her nineties, who told her that when she was growing up in Virginia she’d sometimes be out in a field sensing a “thunderous train of air” she knew was a poem. She’d “run like hell” from the field to her house to find a piece of paper and pen “to catch the poem by its tail and pull it back into her body” and onto the page.

Tom Waits had another approach, continued Elizabeth. One day he was driving on the freeway in L.A. when fragments of a melody appeared in his mind. He had no paper or recorder handy and feeling anxious about losing the inspiration he looked up to the sky and said, “Excuse me, can you not see I’m driving? Come back at a more appropriate time.” After this he had a deeper connection with his creative source.

Encouraged by the way Waits dialogued with his creative muse, Elizabeth tried the same thing one day during a difficult patch of writing Eat, Pray, Love. Almost in despair, she looked up to the corner of the room and said, “I am putting everything I have into this…I don’t have any more than this so if you want it to be better you have to show up and do your part of the deal, but I’m going to keep writing because that’s my job.” This saved her, she said and she urged her viewers not to be daunted by whatever they want to create. “Just do your job.”

I find if I sit at my desk every day and write whatever wants to arise I may enter a stream of writing, a golden thread of inspiration. Suddenly words pour onto the page and I have only to write them down for they are flowing as though from a tap. Willingness and allowing open the tap. The muses might think, ‘Oh there she is at her desk, let’s give her some writing today.’ They see I’m serious and not going to leave. I’ve created a space for the writing. Some days I might have only a vague idea of what to write.  If I go with that usually there’s plenty underneath this. The floodgates open. It seems mysterious but it’s really openness to receive. I’m only aware of my hand moving across the page and the writing is effortless.

To open to your creative muse you may wish to try the following three-step process:

1. Relax and breathe deeply.

2. Open and allow.

3. Write whatever comes with acceptance.

Snow, Faith, and Writing

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Dear Friends:

As I walk in the forests and fields here on Salt Spring where we’ve had snow for more than a week, I’m deeply grateful for this white world of wonder, an intricate lace of light connecting the tall firs, cedars, alders, and everything else.

The other morning as I entered the field in the softly falling snow and looked around me I thought ‘How exquisitely beautiful this all is.’ And when I came back to my room and sat down at my desk the Zen phrase “the snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place” came to my mind.

If it’s true each snowflake is in its perfect place, we must be part of this divine perfection of the universe, too.

Sometimes we don’t see this perfection in our writing. We only see what’s not working. We may be judging ourselves for not completing a story or poem or even a larger project.

Yet as we allow our writing to be exactly as it is, we accept the deep rhythms of creativity. There are times when we are productive and much comes; other times we must wait, take small steps, and be patient with the results. We must have faith in the process, however long it takes. Faith takes us through the dark passages towards our completed works. Faith is part of the inner harmony of our creations and the universe. And especially at this time as we approach the darkest time of the year, faith is essential.

Over the coming weeks may faith be your guide and may the blessings of the season be rich and plentiful for you and your family.

With Love and Warm Wishes,



In the snow-lit field I raise up my palms

to the moon’s blazing white face.

What are you waiting for? she asks.

Feast on the beauty of your life.


Creative Fertility

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Be the one on whom nothing is lost

—Henry James

Last month while walking in the forest I came upon a large perfectly formed eagle feather on the path. Given that I was headed to St. Mary Lake for my afternoon walk, I hid the feather under a fern and picked up it up on the way back. When I arrived home, I placed it on my writing desk where I could see it.

The next morning, while contemplating the meaning of this gift, I consulted The Spirit of Place by Loren Cruden, who says the eagle is a totem of strength, courage, leadership, and spiritual power, among other attributes.

More gifts arrived the other day on another path in the forest: four large tightly bound fir cones, which my partner, Phil, suggested represent fertility. I discovered the cones came from one of the tall firs by the creek and I’ve found another ninety-seven cones from the fallen branch they were attached to.

I feel a deep reverence and gratitude for these gifts, which have already generated many creative offerings, including poems, journal writing, and now this note. And I know that as I focus on being “the one on whom nothing is lost” more gifts will come and I’ll partake in their fertility.

What gifts are arriving into your life? Do you have the eyes to see them? Can you honour these gifts through your writing?

With Love,


The Courage to Write

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Dear All:

The other week when I asked a friend how her book was coming along, she admitted she hadn’t worked on it for a year and a half.

“It’s been so long I’m afraid of it,” she added. “Yet I know if I devote a chunk of time to it and hold it in my heart, I will be deep in the book again, and then I’ll be able to go back to it for short periods of time.”

“That sounds right,” I offered thinking of my own experiences with book-length projects over many years. Sometimes life and our own resistances block the way to the writing that means the most to us. Yet if we commit to the process again, set some time aside, and plunge in, we can find our way back to the writing we love.

My friend realized on a deep level she needed to complete the writing. “I have to finish the book, get it into a publishable state,” she told me. “I don’t care if it’s published.”  For her, the work was a soul calling and she couldn’t rest without fulfilling this inner commitment.

Still, returning to a project we’ve abandoned or starting one takes courage, the capacity to step forward into the unknown. Courage demands we let go of our fears and step boldly towards our heart’s desire—no matter what. Maybe our book won’t be published, but the next one might. All we can do is the work that’s ours.

Often distractions get in the way, arising from limited beliefs such as “I don’t have the time, energy, or talent for this work.” Yet when we make the writing a priority, the universe supports it. We find all kinds of resources coming to us—space opens up, time expands, money comes to us, our energy increases. As Goethe wrote, “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.”

The following steps may be helpful for your own process: 1) Let go of any sense of wrongdoing about your writing, whether it’s for losing focus on a project or resisting starting one. 2) Set up a strong intention to work on your project; write your intention on a small card you can see throughout the day. 3) Listen to any impulses that arise about your project and write them down. 4) Carry out what you can do in the moment. 5) Be thankful for your progress, even if small. 6) Trust that as you work with care and awareness your writing will come to fruition.

Bright Summer Blessings,


Poetry and Place: A Hidden Music

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

One of my favorite places on Salt Spring is the southern edge of the island in Ruckle Park where a trail through old growth firs and arbutus trees along the coast offers expansive views, pristine beauty, and an entry into the mysteries of the Gulf Islands, a rare ecosystem of unique flora, fauna, and sea life. I’ve been coming to park with my partner, Phil, since the late nineties when I moved to the island, thus it seemed fitting to launch my new poetry book The Way the Light Enters by Black Moss Press here on an afternoon in October.

Our group gathered in a farmyard near some of the historic barns erected by the Ruckle family, who settled the land in 1872 and a century later donated a thousand acres to the B.C. government for the park.  Given the light drizzle, I read a poem called “Learning to Love the Rain” written after my first campout here. As we huddled under a shelter, I read a few more poems inspired by visits to the park, interspersed with the honking of turkeys wandering around us, then we headed down to a stone-pebbled beach in Granny’s Bay. Everyone sat on giant washed-up logs while I offered poems about other special places on the island: a sacred well known for its healing qualities, a First People’s reserve with a stumped tree altar, a museum that housed native artifacts including a bone-carved soul catcher, the highest mountain on Salt Spring where initiates held vision quests.

Yet it wasn’t’ until we climbed a trail along the coastline to a flat rock under the firs that I felt the power of poetry and place merge to work their magic.

Everyone settled quickly on rocks, mounds of earth, and against trees while I offered poems about a rare orchid that blooms once every twenty years, a ferry ride to the island under an arch of rainbow light, and a “creation story” poem about Haida Gwaii. Inspired by a chief who visited Salt Spring for a talk on the famed archipelago in northern B.C., “The Raven’s Song” seemed to open a portal to the underlying layers of this place. When I read the last two lines: people began to dance and sing new songs/to all things wild and beautiful, one woman let out an audible ahhhhhhh into the silence.  I looked up to see bright eyes and shining faces in the light rain.

Our last stop was farther along the trail at a campsite under a giant old-growth fir whose boughs touched the ground in several places. Here I read a poem called “The Edge of the Island,” which speaks about ancient songlines/still alive with hidden music and from the remarks of many on the walk I knew they’d attuned to the “hidden music” of the poetry and this sacred place.

The next day most of the symptoms of the shingles I’d been recovering from for the previous month, as well as a bout of vertigo, vanished. A line by Rumi in one of the last poems I read at Ruckle Park seemed true for us that afternoon: Awe is the salve that will heal our eyes.

Write to Save Yourself

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

In Anne Michael’s extraordinary novel Fugitive Pieces, one of the main characters, scientist and humanist Anthos Roussos, tells his adopted son Jacob Beer, whose family was murdered by Nazis during the Second World War: “Write to save yourself, and you’ll write because you’ve been saved.”

Heeding his father’s advice, Jacob begins a career as a poet, penning several poetry collections, as well as a book completing his father’s work.

While the Fugitive Pieces is brimming with brilliant lines, this one about writing struck me most deeply when I read it during the summer while in Toronto. And after I returned to Salt Spring in late August and dived back into my own writing, the line seemed to act as a talisman of sorts over the next month.

All I wanted to do was sit in the quiet of my room, walk in the forest, and write. After some days of journaling, I felt drawn to pull out the poems from my collection The Blue Halo, which I’d left in disarray before my departure, given preparations for my trip and the editing of a nonfiction manuscript. I’d had no time even to print out the edited poems before I left, though I did write out a list on a scrap of green paper.

With this make-shift list as my guide, I found each of the poems and worked on them until they felt complete. Much to my amazement, the manuscript came together as a whole within a short period of time and I emailed it to a publisher the other week. The next day the publisher emailed back with acceptance of the book for publishing next fall.

Working on the poems, I realized, was a way to save myself, for the process offered me deep nourishment. I felt as though I’d been replenished like a dry creek filling up with rain after months of drought. And it struck me once again that when I listen to my deep urgings, it always brings a reward of one kind or another.

What writing do you need to do to save yourself? Are you willing to take the first step in the process?



Waiting Beautifully

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

In his memoir Long Life, Honey in the Heart, American author Martin Prechtel describes how the elders in the Guatemalan village of Santiago Atitlan where he lived in the `70s and `80s waited for the newly initiated boys to emerge from the house of a local chieftain after ceremonies marking the end of a year’s training: “All Tzutujil had to be good at waiting, but the hierarchy were the best there was because their waiting was sacred. They knew after years of ritual that waiting beautifully and well was a major part of every ceremony. Each aspect of a well-done ritual was part of what they called food for the spirits. Because the spirits ate mostly beauty, a body of ancient ritualists like these had to dress in the most delicious way and wait in such a manner that the beauty of their waiting could be feasted upon by the gods.”

We must do the same kind of beautiful waiting when we sit down at our desks before the blank page. This means holding ourselves open to what’s ready to come. Some days we tap into a river that seems to pour endlessly onto the page. We let go into the stream moving through us, and surrender to what wants to be written in the moment. There is no effort involved and in a sense we become a transcriber for the words. It is the creative energy moving through us, dictating where the writing wants to go. If we let our rational minds take over and tell us this isn’t going anywhere, or this isn’t important enough, we stop the flow. We get stuck in our own conditioning, which is often the belief we must write about something the mind has dictated so we can feel productive. Yet the creative energy doesn’t care about our agendas. It just wants to flow onto the page. It wants an unobstructed channel. We may be entering into deeper levels of concentration, preparing for something yet unknown to us.

This is what Rainer Maria Rilke experienced one morning in the winter of 1912. As he walked along the cliffs near Dunio Castle in northeastern Italy, he heard “Who if I cried out, would hear me among the angels?” which he wrote down in his notebook. By nightfall, he’d completed the first section of his famous Dunio Elegies, considered one of the poetic masterpieces of the twentieth century. The second elegy came that winter, but it was another ten years before he finished the whole sequence. Rilke devoted his life to waiting beautifully, even though it demanded much of him, for he knew this was the way to the truest writing. In his Letters to a Young Poet he talks of this process of waiting when he says: “Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.”

Are you willing to bring deep humility and patience to a writing project you’d like to begin or continue with? What would help you honor this?

Warmest Blessings,