"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Sunday, September 8, 2013

celebrating lives greatly full :: david blaikie

I first met David Blaikie through my husband.  I have since grown to enjoy his company and that of his wife, Susan.  David's career was in journalism and communications, including 18 years as a Parliamentary Press Gallery reporter with The Canadian Press, The Toronto Star and Reuters. But I love that, until recently, even after knowing David for several years, I had no idea just how talented a writer and a poet he really was. It's as if his relationship with words, and his need to let them flow out of him, are simply part of his very being.  Like the colour of his eyes: very present, but not demanding of attention.

I know David to be a humble man and he seemed genuinely surprised when I asked him if he would consider participating as a guest blogger in *the gratitude project: dare to be grateful*.  I am so glad that he agreed and hope you will enjoy his writing as much as I do.  You can revel in his words here.  And in his images, here.

When Jo-Anne asked me to contribute to her gratitude project, I thought of my father, David Morrison Blaikie, who was born July 28, 1909, and lived all his life in the small Nova Scotia village of Upper Stewiacke, a good man who still inspires me thirty-seven years after his death.          

He was named after his father, although everyone called him Morris, and I was named in turn after him. Scarcely a day goes by that I do not think of him and feel gratitude for his wise and patient counsel.

On the last day I saw him, my mother took a photo of the two of us on standing at the corner of our house, just before I got into the car to head back to Ottawa. I can still see the two of them waving as I drove away. I keep that photo in a meditation corner and see it every morning as I look out through the branches of a towering silver maple toward the Rideau, a place he would have loved as much as I do.

My father went to school in that village, graduated from Grade 11 in 1924 (a relative rarity at
the time) and went to work immediately in the family sawmill, where he spent his life and in later years became the sole owner and operator. I remember him as he was in this photo, his hand on the lever, the big saw shrieking through endless logs, his hat forever flecked with sawdust. He worked there 44 years and never got over its closing in 1968.

He married my mother, Eva Gray, at 33 and raised four children in a house where twice that many often crowded round the dinner table, including mill hands and anyone else who happened to be there.

He put two spoons of sugar in every cup of tea and went driving every Sunday, never forgetting the way sugar and gas were rationed in the war. He played the organ for the choir at church, and had a violin. Our house rang with hymn sings that I hated as child, yet would give anything to hear again. He also kept a weird blue apron in a box and took it with him to monthly meetings at the Masonic Hall.

A Liberal, he voted Tory only once, when Bob Stanfield entered national politics in 1967, and no Liberal ran against him, and even then he did it grudgingly, mainly to portray himself in political arguments as “a man who changes his vote.”

He played the stock market, rooted for Montreal, chafed at unions, wanted Sonny Liston to beat Cassius Clay, and favoured Bob Winters over Pierre Trudeau in that memorable leadership campaign of 1968.

He hoped I too would go to work in the mill but wished me well in journalism and held his tongue when I cheered for the Leafs, voted NDP and helped organize The Canadian Press. He never drank and never smoked and was not overweight yet died of heart failure March 3, 1976, on a winter holiday with my mother in Bermuda.

My oldest sister still lives in the house he built at the corner of the Otterbrook Road. Every time I’m home I visit his grave.

This poem appears in a chapbook, Farewell to Coney Island, published last year by Tree Press of Ottawa.

 * * * * *


I see my father walking in dusty boots from the

mill through piles of golden lumber row on row

in the butter light of evening below the church.


The air is cool and tinged with words that

flow as fish in summer currents and seep to the

dark embrace of the earth beneath his feet.


Love is patient love is kind, amazing grace, unto

the hills around do I look up. I breathe the scent of

strawberries in a field and salt on red rut roads


hear hymns that flit on swallow wings to waiting

nests against the weathered barn.

This is where I learned that truth is fluid and


sings along the hydro wires from pole to silent pole

and winters with the geese and lovely butterflies

and never wears a ring or agrees to glint on


anything but bottles cast by pilgrims into ditches

on their way to Santiago. My father was a pilgrim

in this village where he wandered through his days


and he rarely knew a morning that was old

or came to evening with an empty bowl.
- David Blaikie

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