Eric Milner: Birthday Remembrances at 101

dad in India

Eric Milner, center

My father traversed an interesting path, one of travel, adventure and creativity. Born in England on October 6th, 1915, today would have been his 101st birthday. Daddy studied botany and horticultural science at Wimbledon Technical College. He worked as a student gardener at the John Innes Horticultural Institution in London. Now you know where I got my love of gardening.

In a letter he saved dated October 1st, 1937, it says:

“Mr. E. Milner came to us on Sept. 16th 1935 as a Student Gardener. Since that time he has spent 4 months in the Fruit Department, 2 months in the Rock Garden, 8 months on general outdoor work and 10 months under glass. His experience with us has included the propagation and maintenance of stove, glasshouse and herbaceous plants, all of which we grow in considerable variety.”

So formal! After completing his courses, he moved to India to work on a tea plantation around 1937.  He remained in India during the second world war serving as a translator.

In a letter dated 7th May, 1946 from the India Office, Whitehall, it says:

Sir,

“Now that the time has come for your release from active military duty, I am to convey to you the thanks of the Secretary of State for India and of the Government of India for the valuable services which you have rendered to your country at a time of grave national emergency.

At the end of the emergency you will relinquish your commission, and at that time a notification will appear in the London Gazette (Supplement), granting you also the honorary rank of Captain.  Meanwhile, you have permission to use that rank with effect from the date of your release.”

He returned to England in 1946 and shortly thereafter immigrated to Canada where he met and married my mother.  Together they owned a pair of flower shops for a few years.  My father later managed a nursery in my hometown of London, Ontario.

Lucky for me his hobbies included photography and the careful assembly of albums, like the one pictured here.  I remain fascinated all these years later of his time in India and his work planting and propagating tea in the Darjeeling region. He died far too young. A smoker of pipes and unfiltered, hand-rolled cigarettes, he lost his life to cancer when I was just nine years old. He was 54.

Darjeeling album

Photos from Daddy’s time in India

planting tea in India

Planting young tea, photo by Eric Milner

tea growing in India

Tea Grows in India, 1939, photo by Eric Milner

There are so many things I would ask him if I could. What was it like to be a boy in England in the twenties?  Who were his friends?  What drew him to botany and landscaping?  Dad’s treasured albums leave subtle clues, but each photo poses more questions.  There are pictures of my namesake Aunt Alys and his parents, neither of whom I met, but pictures of others too. Who were they and why did their image make it into his photo albums? If Daddy had lived to a ripe old age, his own shared memories would be a part of our story, and perhaps most of them mundane.  Instead they’re a mystery that I can’t quite solve, special moments from a life interrupted.

I feel connected to dad when I’m tending my garden or digging in the soil. He lives in my heart and at the end of my proverbial green thumb. If he were here to celebrate this birthday, I would thank him for the gift of my life, for his compassion and care and for passing on his love of the earth. I would wrap my arms around his slender frame, give him a hug, and tell him all the things we missed together.

 

 

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Alberta on my Mind

I’ve had an extraordinary ten days in Alberta. In typical holiday fashion, the time passed in a flash. It was full of highs and more highs. So it goes when you’re spending time with a treasured friend.

Jasper National Park Alberta

Good times at Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

I met Boomdee via WordPress, a wonderful forum for finding your people. There are days when I still can’t believe it.

Boomdeeadda

Boomdeeadda

Yet here we are, making the most of our time together, while making do with the time apart.

Boomdee lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She hosted me at her home in Edmonton. We also took a two-day excursion to the mountains, the world-famous Canadian Rockies, about a five-hour drive from Edmonton. Mr. B, as he’s affectionately known, drove the ten-hour round trip. The drive was breathtaking.

Japser National Park Alberta-034

The mostly two-lane highway passes magnificent forests of Alpine Larch, Spruce, Fir to name just a few. Meandering rivers are a glorious milky blue this time of year as the snow and glaciers melt. We stopped at two or three waterfalls on our journey. It’s difficult to describe the power of the water slowly carving out the mountains as the icy waters rush downstream. This video will give you a general idea.

The high point of the day, if you’ll forgive the pun, was time spent above the Columbia Glaciers. You walk along a cliff-edge walkway before arriving on a glass-floored observation platform 918 feet (280 metres) over glacier-formed valleys and rushing waterfalls. If you follow this link, you’ll see the full magnificence of the viewing platform, unobstructed by tourists like me. Boomdee preferred the solid footing of the cliff.  I ventured out with Mr. B, weak-kneed but excited to experience the incredible view.

That night, we stayed in her friend’s cabin just across the border in Valemount, British Columbia. It’s a small village of about 1,000 people. What a treat!

Valemount, British Columbia

Valemount, BC

On our way home, we enjoyed lunch at the historic Jasper Park Lodge, known locally as JPL.

Back in Edmonton we packed in more fun. We visited Fort Edmonton with Ben and Sherry, and enjoyed coffee and banana bread with her Aunty Kathleen. We visited Urban Scrapbook, The Duchess Bakery and Greenland Garden Centre and nursery. Boomdee recently replanted her boulevard, but saved a space for a plant that we bought together. Isn’t that the sweetest? We sat on her deck or patio, enjoying tea, coffee and toast.

When you get back from a trip, you often here “What was your favorite part?” In a word: Boomdee.

Together we giggle like school girls and seemingly travel on the same emotional plane.  We have similar loves and shared world views, which make our time together easy. She’s a gracious host, married to a lovely man and together they live with a pair of charming cats named Blossum and Petals.

I felt welcome and right at home. Do you have a friend like that?

FullSizeRender 34

We’re already planning our next trip, which makes the time apart seem more doable.

Come have a look at Boomdee’s post about our time together. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s still  dark, but actually very warm outside this morning. When I say morning, it’s very early, only 4:25AM.  The kitties followed me downstairs and did a drive-by snacking.  Now, I’m thinking they’ve gone back to bed because the house is very still and quiet.  It’s Alys’s last day here in Edmonton…[read more]

In case you missed it, here is my post documenting her creative process for Urban Scrapbook.

Ten Reasons to Visit Alberta (and BC)

Glacier Skywalk Experience

Trees of Alberta

Jasper National Park

Valemount, British Columbia

Fort Edmonton

Jasper Park Lodge

Edmonton Parks

Delicious Restaurants and Wonderful Service

Urban Scrapbook

Boomdeeadda

Reporting From the Boomroom

I’m visiting my dear friend Boomdee in Alberta, Canada. She works for The Urban Scrapbook, and is on deadline for her monthly page layout.

with petals and petals in the boom room

Working her magic in the Boomroom with Petals the cat looking on

Urban provides a kit each month, filled with patterned and solid-colored paper, ribbon, and other embellishments. She kindly brought home a second kit of papers, so that we could make coordinating pages together. The “Urban Girls” create a layout for the store once a month.

My intentions were good, but when you’re sitting across from your Boomdee Bestie, artistic crafter extraordinary, it’s intimidating. I opted instead to watch her work and to record the process.

She started with a series of papers spread in front of her, and decided on a featured photo. Aren’t we adorable?

at the valemount lodge

On the steps of a friend’s log cabin

Using a stencil, she added Gesso to her base page,

Gesso and stencil

White circles stenciled on to heart patterned paper with Gesso

then splattered bits of black acrylic paint for texture and interest. From there she built up paper layers, starting with black card stock, then adding pink and a third layer of patterned paper.

After adhering the three layers together, she did something unexpected: she went to her sewing machine and laid down three rows of black stitching using buttonhole weight thread.

sewing the pages

Sewing black thread for texture and interest

Using a die cut of the word bliss, she cut one from a sheet of pink paper, then using the same die, she cut part of the actual photo. I love the effect. Using double-sided tape, she created a border on a white piece of paper, then added pink glitter. She attached the photo to the glittered frame, then offset two pieces of patterned paper for a layered effect. Meanwhile, she used spray dyes to color a piece of off-white seam binding, then stitched down the middle with the same black thread.

almost finished page

Almost done

She gathered the seam binding into a small puddle of sorts, then added a heart-shaped chipboard to the top.

The layering continued, using chipboard, crystal dots, glitter, unfolded and dyed paper cording and finally tissue paper.

I’ve been writing this in real-time over the last four hours, punctuated by a late-night snack and a glass of something with bubbles. We’re having fun and I’ve learned so much more by observing then if I had attempted a page on my own.

urban scrapbook page layout

The Reveal

I’ll write more about my visit when I’m home next week. Mike and the boys are in San Jose keeping the cats fed and the birdbaths full. I miss them of course, but I’m having a wonderful time. As luck would have it, my hosts have a pair of cats of their own.

pair of black cats

Blossum and Petals

You can see more of Boomdee’s work at Boomdeeadda and The Urban Scrapbook where she writes a bi-monthly column, Kelly’s Korner.

Nuvo Crystal Drops

BoBunny paper line

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Dark Times in America

Canada, here I come.

For the second time in two months, I’m off to Canada for some rest and relaxation. I took Mike to see Victoria for the first time in mid-June.

Next week I’ll visit Edmonton, a trip planned nearly a year ago. I’m visiting my “Boomdee Bestie”, a dear, dear friend whom I met through blogging. We laugh when we’re together, and everything seems right with the world. I’m counting the days.

kelly and alys in chinatown 2014

What I planned as a vacation, a holiday away from the mundane, now feels like an escape. These are dark times in America. Current events have laid me low.

Our parents raised us to be tolerant and fair-minded, kind and sincere. My Canadian mother and British father met on a blind date in the mid-fifties in Ontario, Canada. They moved our family to California when we were still in grade school.

All these years later, I still  long for the safety of home. Home was a place where nobody cared about a second-amendment right to bear arms. The idea of owning a gun was absurd. In a 2013 survey of 80 countries by the World Values Survey, Canada ranked among the most racially tolerant societies in the world.

Conversely, the States seem mired in racism and gun violence, with little if any progress toward a cure. One of our major presidential candidates wear’s his hateful, misogynist, xenophobic opinions proudly. When he says “Let’s make America great again” it has nothing to do with tolerance. He talks of building walls along the Mexican border,  profiling Muslims, punishing women’s right to choose and a myriad of other aberrant stances that could set this country back a hundred years if he wins.

This past week, police officers shot and killed two men of color with both incidents caught on camera. A four-year-old girl sat in the back seat of the car, miraculously unharmed. The video ends with her tiny voice comforting her distraught mother. “It’s okay, mommy, I’m here.” I sat alone in my car, listening to her small voice while her mother sobbed and I wept along with her.

A day later, as I tossed and turned in bed, further gun violence unfolded. A lone gunman shot a dozen police officers standing watch over a peaceful protest rally. When the long, terrible night was over, five officers were dead, several more wounded including two civilians.

I’m weary and sick and frightened, too. There must be a better way forward.

“Everyone has a right to peaceful coexistence, the basic personal freedoms, the alleviation of suffering, and the opportunity to lead a productive life.” – Jimmy Carter

“Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.” – Dalai Lama

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa

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You might also enjoy: Seeking Solace by Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

Rear Window

Have you seen the movie Rear Window, the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic? It’s one of my personal favorites.

While I’m happy to report that nothing too suspicious is going on outside my rear window, I’ve found myself thinking about Jimmy Stewart’s character, a photographer convalescing with a broken foot. Through the view of his rear window, he gradually pieces together a murder.

As my surgery-addled brain clears and my energy slowly returns, I’m feeling the limitations of my restricted mobility.

In the movie, Stewart’s character Jeff starts to suspect the neighbor across the way of killing and then burying his own wife. At one point he tells the detective:

“Those two yellow zinnias at the end, they’re shorter now. Now since when do flowers grow shorter over the course of two weeks? Something’s buried there.”

This got me thinking. There is something suspicious outside my rear window. It looks like a small sinkhole to the front of a newly planted shrub. Like Stewart, I’m unable to investigate on my own. I waited for Mike to check it out. He topped up the recess with a handful of soil, but the next day the sinkhole was back.

It’s quite possible that I’m spending too much time in my head.

In any event, I miss my garden and my mobility.

San Jose summers are too hot for daytime gardening. Mid autumn is where the action is. I long to be out there raking leaves, pruning branches, and tidying the garden for the winter ahead. I love the way the crisp air reddens my cheeks and reminds me that I’m one with the elements. The bouquet of autumn decay centers my soul.

This is the time of year when my garden gloves wear out. Even the toughest gloves are no match for wet earth and rough leaves. Once the fingertips have worn through, it’s time to put them to rest, thanking them for a job well done.

As the garden rests, part of me comes alive. I spent the first six years of my life in Ontario, Canada, a home with four distinct seasons. I think those changing seasons are part of my early imprinting. Autumn in San Jose connects me to my early sense of home.

As I heal from surgery and sit this season out, here’s the view from my rear window.

hydrangea cranberry

This blushing pink Hydrangea darkens to a beautiful cranberry before dying back for the winter. I’m looking down on it from our living room window

split view

Splitting the view: indoor shelves display assorted succulents; outdoors, Abutilon grows along the fence with dollops of ground cover and a peek-a-boo Hydrangea

ultra violet decal

These window decals “contain a unique component that reflects ultraviolet light, which is brilliantly visible to birds, to alert them of glass without obscuring your view.”

pair of hummingbirds at feeder

Ana’s hummingbird has a drink at the feeder while a competitor swoops in for a turn

alysum, geranium, begonia and flax

Foreground: Alyssum, Pink Geranium and Begonia. Background: New Zealand Flax

Mum’s the Word

Chrysanthemums will forever remind me of my own ‘Mum’ this time of year.  She loved them.  Mums were her go-to plant.  She always brought one with her for the holidays.  She liked sending mums as a gift, saying that flowering plants lasted longer than cut flowers.  Mum and Dad owned two flower shops in Canada in the mid-fifties.  Sadly for me, they sold the shops before I was born.  I’m not sure how old I was before connecting the dots that ‘Mums’ and ‘Chrysanthemums’ were the same.

pink mum closeup

Pink Mum Closeup

A year ago I bought this pink pretty pink Mum for the front deck.  They usually last a season, dry out and then people toss them.  I don’t give up on plants that quickly, so I cut this one back to the stems and continued to water it.  It showed signs of life all summer, albeit short, green stems. It briefly sprang back to life this fall, with another display of color.

pink mums

Pink Mums

Non-Sequitur

On the subject of “Mums”, “Mums!” and “Mums,” I consulted Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty on the proper use of quotes.  Her explanation went a long way toward explaining my confusion.  There is an American Usage and the Kings English usage.  Since I started my education in Canada, then moved to US schools, it explains my confusion.  I insert quotes with trepidation, and will restructure a sentence to avoid ending with a quote so that I don’t have to worry about incorrect usage.

Whew…I’m so glad I got that off my chest.

Here’s what Grammar Girl has to say:

When combining exclamation points and question marks with quotation marks, Americans follow the same logical system as the British. Where you place the other marks relative to the quotation mark depends on the context of the quotation.

If the whole sentence, including the quotation, is a question or an exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes outside the closing quotation mark; but if only the part inside the quotation marks is a question or exclamation, then the question mark or exclamation point goes inside the closing quotation mark.

Quotation Marks with Semicolons and Colons

With semicolons, colons, asterisks, and dashes, we get back to a simple rule. They always go outside the closing quotation mark.

Summary

In American English, periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation mark; semicolons, colons, asterisks, and dashes always go outside the closing quotation mark; and question marks and exclamation points require that you analyze the sentence and make a decision based on context.

Hopefully, now that I’ve read this, copied it, edited it for brevity, the concept will stick. If not, as my grammar friend Francie likes to say, “so sue me!”

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of organizing around the holidays blogs this week on my blog Organized at Heart.  If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.

Craft it Forward: Tiny Album, Big Heart

DSC_0197My kindred spirit Boomdee is flying home to Canada today.  Mr. B and the kitties can’t wait to see her.  I tried to convince her to stay through the end of October, but she didn’t want to miss the first snow of the season. 😉 I reluctantly took her to the airport this afternoon after seven, extraordinary days.

Although I’m partially responsible for bumping her suitcase over the fifty-pound limit, I was happy to deliver Craft it Forward #5 directly into her hands.  (It can’t possibly weigh more than four pounds (two kilograms).  It must have been those cute new shoes.

Boomdee’s charming blog is about ‘art, life and other bits.’  She says

“Picking a Blog name is such a personal thing.  Should it be a play on words, funny or witty?  I want to do so many things and I’m passionate about a ton of stuff. What will I write about? That’s how I landed on Boomdeeadda.  It’s a bit of a nonsense word but says so much about me.”.

The Challenge

I like to challenge myself with each of these projects. Though I’ve created many photo albums in the past, the challenge this time was creating something for such a talented crafter. If you haven’t seen her paper masterpieces, you are in for a treat.  Take a look.

She encourages me to go the extra mile.  I inked the edges, added layers of flowers, ribbon and photo corners here and there.  Mostly, I had fun, choosing her colors and mixing it in with a garden theme.

Album pages are viewable in the gallery below.  Please click on the gallery slide show.

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 What is Craft it Forward?

Here’s how it works. The first five people to comment on the original post receive a handmade item with the gardening nirvana touch. In return, they agree to pay it forward, crafting their own unique item for the first five people on their list. Craft it Forward encourages community, creative spirit and camaraderie. It also encourages flexibility, so I expanded my list from five to seven based on interest in the project. Isn’t it fun making your own rules?

craft it forward button

Craft it Forward: Grab a button

Further, in the era of the internet, who doesn’t like ‘real’ mail? If you haven’t started your own Craft it Forward, today is a good day to get going.