Friday, August 4, 2023

Canoe Trip

The first thing.
The scent of the place

Heady tree pitch, split bark
Cedar and pine's unspoken prayers
Airborne intoxicating remembered
Pungent earth and ripple
Shoot up soft moisture
I am eleven, and at camp on this rocky shore
On Lake-of-Bays for the first time - 1966

Left (to my delight)
Left and free
Free to feel the Canadian Shield press against me
Precambrian rock - folding faulting shifting, scraping bare
Exposed rock now sun baked and smooth
A tactile solid mass tilted lakeward

Murmuring waters wait as
I pick my way down
Slanting summer warmth
And slowly slip toward shore
Stone and jagged edges
(As it's not all smooth)
Then, water

The lake and nervous waiting
Swim test, a thrash done mostly on my back
With eyes tight shut and guided by the sound of a rowboat companion
Shouting encouraging reminders of the prize - 
Canoe Trip! Freedom!                                                     
Fresh water fish and algae scent, liquid silk and distant bird sound 
again and again
(So achingly beautiful as to break one's heart)

Like the row of sleek red cedar strip canoes (close enough to touch)
Wrapped and shiver in musty towel, dripping hair, teeth chattering breath
The victors stay on the dock to learn waterfront rules
What is expected of us to canoe
Then we pick our way up the rock once more
To the girl's side and pine scented cabin                                  
And warm dry hoodie redolent of home bundled in the bedding
Canoe lessons (and many missteps)
Cedar baked scent and glare
A wash of lake slapping the keel
In the bow seat facing the stern, and slowly slowly gliding into its rhythm
I paddle the canoe and unfurl
My first solo passage    
And then, canoe trip (no longer earthbound)
Canvas packs lashed to gunwales and wannigan
Three times three setting off up the lake
Toward Blueberry Island and beyond
Pin prick then out of sight, we shed our shirts
We paddle away from camp routine - from competition and swimming lessons
And boys

And into our own world of
Whispered paddling chants
Campfire meals and skinny-dip laughter, rock and birch bark
Spruce gummed and charcoaled hands
Sunburn and scrape
Pine needle smoke (a high incomprehensible unless tried)
To sleep under stars

We are eleven
Bare chests - soft skin and downy legs
Ready to climb the exposed cliff
Only to hover
Wanting to leap but screaming doubt
Waiting for a sign    

The morning's soft holy light
Dew and chill
Damp cotton and spicy earth
I solo out while the rest still sleep
Drift soundlessly into the mist
And out of sight

And with stunning clarity I am there
On that lake and in the canoe in the dew scented morning
Aching old knees press hard into cedar ribs
In calloused veined hands, a paddle, the smell of pitch
I am old woman and I am eleven
I am memory - balancing - in the clear first light, prodded then hushed,
I turn to look back

The scent of the place
The last thing.     


- Anne Renouf
Summer 2020                                

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Foghorn Lives

 Foghorn Lives!

Out here at the ranch, our favourite goose of all time, 
a goose commonly referred to as 'Foghorn',
returned to our pond every Spring for ten years, maybe twelve,
or more. 


He had an exceptionally broad buff-coloured breast, 
with a distinct scar-like marking on one side, 
(perhaps an old war wound), 
making him instantly recognisable.

Foghorn had the swagger of a Texas rancher.

He'd land near the pond in early Spring, 
still ice and snow covered,
shake himself out as if to say,
 "Whoa, what a flight!".
Legs wide apart, wings back, he'd sway to the centre of the grassy patch  
and announce (in full foghorn mode), 


He and Mrs. F were part of the family, at least for a few weeks. They came, scouted the territory, laid eggs, raised young'uns, (at least the ones not eaten for breakfast by the snapping turtles), 
and before you knew it, had departed.

That last time, Foghorn and the little missus were moving kind of slow.
She tended to stay put while he flew off on scouting missions.
No goslings materialized.
They hung around until well into early Summer.
Finally they both managed to become airborne - only just clearing the poplars at the top of the field,
then swung north-west against the evening light, and
were gone.

'Son of Foghorn'.

You may wonder how I know that he was in fact
                         Foghorn's son, not just any old gander, (they all being rather alike). 
When he first appeared, it was evident that he had not just his father's looks, but more his way, 
and though smaller, was similar in nature.
He gave the impression of knowing his way around, cocky-like, like perhaps he had been here before.
He is like his father, a little bit of that Foghorn swagger,
 and every so often demonstrated the old man's theatrical flair.

I got into the habit last Spring, of scattering scratch grain along the edge of their wandering territory, the green space by the pond. They would make their way to the spot, walking slowly and carefully, then he would keep lookout while she ate. 

Very gentlemanly. 

When they first arrived this year, (and I let out a whoop of delight), he turned toward the house,
stretched his neck to its full length and peered toward that old scratch grain spot. 
So, no doubt.
 It's him.

We're happy to see Son of Foghorn again, of course, 
but we do miss the old boy.
Still, life goes on, (especially if you are a Canada Goose), and as I speak, the nesting process is underway.
Just think, more little Foghorns.

And it is kind of comforting to know,
(at least, out here at the ranch), that,
one way or another,
Foghorn lives. 



Friday, February 24, 2023

Celebrate Your Fabulous Public Library!


Peterborough Public Library, January, 2023  (That's me on the far left.)


*(So says the sign I will carry in support of children’s programming at the Peterborough Public Library.)

 Here in the City of Peterborough and Peterborough County, we celebrate a public library reminding us again and again of the importance of acceptance. 

We are once again approaching a Saturday morning children's program,

'Drag Story Time', where a local teenager, (a university student studying Performance Art), will be entertaining families with young kids by reading stories and singing songs with the aid of a sweet puppet character. The story time programs, (with themes of happiness, emotions, friendship, diversity, inclusion and respect), encourage literacy, promote acceptance and celebrate differences.


The storyteller is our own Betty Baker, kind and gentle, with a perpetual smile -

 a little bit Mary Poppins, a little bit Mrs. Doubtfire, a little bit Julia Child.

Betty Baker's story time events have been hugely successful, happy,

important community events. 


That is, in spite of what happens outside of the library.


Enter a small group of naysayers.

This group has been gathering outside of the library before and during Drag Story Time, armed with signs, (some with bible quotes, some heavy with misinformation), to stand against the insanity, (as I heard it called), of “letting kids be part of a drag show”, and attempting to normalize what they perceive to be the “lie of a radical gender ideology”. The protester’s messages perpetuate dangerous myths and disinformation with regard to drag, trans, 2SLGBTQ+ members of our community and communities across Canada. 


Perhaps it is too much to wish for change to occur in the mindset of the protesters, whose anti-2SLGBTQ+ words and actions make it unsafe for

drag performers, for trans youth, for gay couples in our community. 

But we can outnumber them, showing the library to be a safe, accepting place for all, in the heart of a loving community.


I will be present at the Peterborough Public Library in support of Betty Baker, in support of the programming, in support of those arriving to attend Drag Story Time, in support of the kids who need to hear that it’s okay to be different, and in support of those compelled to turn out in celebration of our diverse community, 

and our FABULOUS library.

 -     Anne Renouf




with Betty Baker

Peterborough Public Library

Saturday May 6 2023   10:15 a.m.



Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Scent of Tea

The scent of tea
in the
still dark winter
every day’s start
of my own

a ritual

boil water
slowly pour
over a small porous pouch
that’s been lifted from 
a decorative tin
then placed in a
warm wide china 
while dim morning light
reveals curls of
scented steam

my teacup waits

as the prosaic coffee
is spooned stirred plunged
poured sugared milked 

and then

I return to it
elbows on the counter
my hands
gently fluttering through
the scented vapour
sending it farther into the air

a breath

like a small boat 
slowly passing a tropical island
catch the spicy waft in the air
of a memory
another time and place
a morning prayer.

- Anne Renouf

Thursday, November 24, 2022

At the edge of the cold and dark Canadian Winter


Six years ago,
I co-facilitated a series of art workshops with 
Syrian refugees 
and other new Canadians at the 
Art Gallery of Peterborough. 
To say that it was a wonderful experience 
would be putting it lightly. 
We communicated not through language, 
but through paint and clay and pencil and ink, 
through laughter and tears. 
We built bridges (literally) and explored the 
concept of ‘home’. 
We made collaborative posters and banners, 
with colours and images and words from 
many cultures. 
We ‘heard’, through drawings, 
the struggle and terror and instability 
that brought our new friends to 
Peterborough Ontario
at the edge of the cold and dark 
Canadian winter.
Somehow, despite the weather, 

that studio was always filled 

with colour and music, with light and love. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

ABC Walk-in-the-Woods

A B C Walk-in-the-Woods                            




AIR affects all.

Above, amidst, always accept and appreciate.

Amble about.

Ah, AIR!  All around. Ambient.



BRANCHES bend. Bark breaks. 

Breathe boldly, brave Backpackers!

Better broaden bypath.

Bear, beaver – both beckon. Blimey.



CONIFER cones confirm chipmunk caches 

cause crunchy conditions. 

Camping? Certainly! Clear confines. 

Create comfort. Creek close-by.




DECIDUOUS drops drifting downward. 

Depressing? Disheartening? Deny!

Demand discourse. 

Deliberately defend divine diversion. 

Don't dawdle...




EARTH enlightens. 

Elemental energy exists everywhere.




FOREST fables fan fears. 

Fairies? Foxes? Feathers flying? Ferocious frogs?

First, find facts. Fling far flippant falsehoods!

Forget fluster. Find forever friends.



GREEN gives ground gorgeous glow. 

Grassy, gauzy growth glimmering gently.

Generous gutsy geography. 




HIKE high hummocks, happily humming. 

Here, hollows hold half-hidden hide-outs.

Heaven! Heed hinterland heritage. 




INSECTS illuminate. Iridescent, insistent, impish. 

In instances, indeed inspired.

It’s ideal.



JOURNEY jauntily jostles. 




KINDLING keeps kettle kicking. 

Kindred kind! 



LANDSCAPE - light, lush, luminous. 

Let’s linger.



MARSHES make mighty microcosms. 

Meticulous models, mysteriously made.

Mists, mould, mulch - 

many magnificent memories!



NESTS – nature’s nurseries. 

Nestlings naturally need nutrients... normally nearby.

Notice, naturalists!



ORDER operates on organization. 

Orchestrate objectives over outright oversights.

Objects oblige. Ole!



PLANTS placed peripherally perform perfect pairings.

Period. Phew!



QUEST quite quickly. Quash qualms. 

Quiz, quip, quack!




ROOTS remain resolute. 

Restless rambles rarely reveal reclusive roots.

Rounded, ropy, resilient. Relentlessly rough. 




SAP – Spring’s sensational sacred sweetness. 

Spile, sap, scald, stir… 




TREES totally top. Think trunk, twigs, tender tips. 

Touch the tangled tapestry.

Toe the threshold. 




UNDERGROWTH - unsung undulation! 

Ubiquitously underfoot. Unearth urgently.

Utterly uplifting.




Voluminous value. Visually vivacious. Verdant vibe.



WETLANDS want wanderers. 

Water warriers.Whither? Wherever.








YEARLING yelps. Yip Yip Yip!

Youth’s yearning yowls. Yikes.



ZOOLOGY – Zesty. Zany zig-zagging zippers. 




Thursday, May 26, 2022

TYCO Redux

University of Toronto Scarborough College Women's Basketball Team  


1976 - That's me, number 10

Forty-five years ago, I managed, (through many stumbles and herculean efforts), 
to win a spot on the coveted roster of the
University of Toronto
Scarborough College Women's Basketball Team,
commonly known as

The tryouts were rigorous, well-attended and competitive. 
Thinking back, I was probably ill-prepared.
I hadn't played team basketball in over a year. My only strategy was to wear a bright red t-shirt with 'RENOUF' on the back to ensure that if nothing else, 
in this sea of athletes my name would stand out.

I was sure of one thing,
 and that was that I wasn't sure of anything. 

When the results were posted and I saw my name on the team list, I went back several times to make sure that I'd read it right.

Lessons of effort and perseverance 

This wasn't just another recreational sport experience for me. 
Not for me, not for any of us.

The team was coached by someone not only dedicated and focused, but single-minded in
 his vision of what women's athletics should look like in the 1970's. 
And to our huge advantage, he had a deep well of knowledge concerning the ins and outs of basketball. 
I might add, (if I were to use all of the clich├ęd coaching lingo that I can think of), that he was a 
'clear communicator', even (or especially) when mistakes were made.

As a result, we practiced frequently, working long and hard. 
We were not only in the U of T league, but took every challenge that came our way - practice games, exhibition games, invitational tournaments, both college and university. We played against teams with less skill and experience as well as greater, including varsity teams and (on one occasion) a university men's 'B' team.
By the time the Women's Summer Basketball League was initiated at the Scarborough Campus, 
we were virtually playing year-round.

Proud and strong

I suppose that I may be slightly biased, but I'll say it anyway. 

We were good.

We had a winning combination.
We were well coached, were tight friends, trusted each other, and worked hard.
And yes, (being nineteen, twenty, twenty-one),
we partied hard too.


Forty-five years later, I think I finally can come to grips with what this short, three-year, 
yet so profoundly significant part of my life means to me.

To those old faces, still so important,
my love and thanks.