Author

Sarah Thomson

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BEAUTY OR NATURAL INTOXICATION?

I can hear the wind whispering in the trees around me, and for a brief moment as I lie on the dock listening to the waves lap against the wood I understand the language of the fir trees and the waves. The green needles of the pines above me contrast beautifully with the blue of the sky. I feel as if everything is suddenly connected and right, and I understand the language of the wind. The world is perfectly in line – with what, I don’t know – and then the moment ends, vanishing as quickly as it came. I try to remember what the trees and waves were saying, but their conversation is lost to me once more.

Is this what meditation is all about? I’ve had these sorts of moments before, but not often. Some people describe them as religious experiences, but to me they seem to come when I get outside myself, away from my thoughts, my reason, and let my instincts connect with the natural world around me. These moments leave me feeling elated, like an orgasm I had while intoxicated but can’t quite remember, leaving me with a skip in my step the next day despite the hangover.

I feel lucky to have had a few of these beautiful moments in my life, and I realize that it takes a little bit of luck and my own determination to let go, be still, listen, and soak in everything.

I remember my first meeting with beauty. I was quite young, and skating with my family at night on an ice rink we had made earlier that day. A sudden drop in temperature over the evening had frozen the rink quickly, making it perfectly smooth, and the cold seemed to cast a stillness over the fields around us.

The night sky was filled with stars and I could hear a farm dog barking far off in the distance. I glided over the surface and for a brief moment I felt as if there was nothing below me, and I was suspended with the stars, held in the beauty of the moment. I was overwhelmed by a universal understanding, and then it was gone. No matter how many times I skated around and around that rink I couldn’t get back to that beautiful spot.

Beauty touched me again in my early 20s, just after seeing a concert. I had spent an hour or so listening to a string quartet play while watching the afternoon sun filter through the trees outside the stained-glass window of the concert hall, making patterns on the floor that seemed to dance to the music.

As I walked home on that warm fall afternoon, I could hear leaves rustling in the breeze, and honking geese flying far overhead. Suddenly the world aligned. It all made sense – the music spoke the same language as the geese and the wind rustling the leaves. My mind knew everything for one brief moment. But when I tried to hold on, it slipped through my fingers like water.

The morning sun now touches the dock. A raven calls out, his voice echoing through the forest, alerting his friends to his find. He has discovered the compost I threw out this morning.

I’ll lie here a little longer but my mind is already filling with other things – the meeting next week, the great bottle of wine my husband will open tonight. The moment of beauty floats further out of reach as a speedboat races past, and I begin to think about the difference between an intoxicating orgasm and an orgasm while intoxicated.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

IT’S NOT THE SIZE OF THE SHIP…

RE: THE WOMEN’S POST WEBSITE REFERENCE TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Attn: Sue Gaudi,
Vice President and
General Counsel,
Globe and Mail

Dear Ms. Gaudi,

I don’t have a legal department to respond to your letter asking me to prove our female readership numbers, nor do I have a lot of time to waste, and since this column is also due, it seems most efficient to deliver you a response through my Publisher’s Journal.

Are you aware that in your letter you have missed two very important words from the statement we make on our website with which you take issue? Our website actually reads: “The Women’s Post is a newspaper designed for professional women. We are now reaching more mid to high income professional women per issue in Toronto than the Globe and Mail…” You failed to mention the “in Toronto.”

I’d like to point out that there are a number of different methods used to come up with readership numbers. Most publications have more than one reader per copy, but the research seems to show that the more focused a niche and the longer the shelf life (monthly, weekly, or daily), the more readers per copy a publication is likely to have. So a monthly magazine for women may have 10 to 12 readers per copy, and a weekly publication for book lovers might have six to seven readers per copy, but a daily newspaper with general news may only have three to five readers per copy. Thus, comparing numbers based on our longer shelf life (we distribute twice a month), smaller size, and niche readership (increasing our pass around value) might be viewed by some as giving us quite an unfair advantage.

And I don’t want to take unfair advantage of the Globe and Mail.

Even if I assume that we each have one reader per copy and base this entirely on distribution numbers, we still come out far ahead. As you can see from the copy of the distribution chart which your circulation department forwarded to my assistant, the Globe and Mail distributes 123,200 Saturday newspapers — your biggest print run day — in Toronto (see chart marked Mechanical Press Run figures June 2008). When those figures are combined with the readership analysis of male to female (done by the Print Measurement Bureau) showing that approximately 42 percent of Globe and Mail readers are female, that equates to 51,744 women you distribute to in Toronto.

The Women’s Post distributes 90,000 in Toronto, reaching mid- to high-income women through select household distribution and boxes and racks in mid- to high-income neighbourhoods. Our readership is 95 percent female (based on our 2007 readership survey) which gives us close to 85,500 women recipients in Toronto.

When it comes to reaching women in Toronto, we are indeed on top.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that our small size means that we have a small readership. As you can see from the above comparison, this is not the case. In today’s busy world I’ve found people much more selective. We may not have as many pages as the Globe, but we’ve learned that women readers prefer a smaller more compact journal and appreciate that we have designed it directly for them.

I am quite eager to grow our current distribution numbers in the rest of the country. It won’t be long before we will indeed be claiming to have more women readers in Canada than the Globe and Mail. Shall I look forward to another letter from you once we do?

Warm breezes,
Sarah Thomson
Publisher | Women’s Post
publisher@womenspost.ca

SARAH THOMSON’S JOURNAL — AUG. 1, 2008

Today I finished readingSarah’s Key: A Novel, a book that captures the horror of the Holocaust extremely well. There were times I had to set it down and walk away because the pain and loss were overwhelming. Written by Tatiana de Rosnay, it is the story of a young Jewish girl, her little 4-year-old brother, and a journalist who discovers their story decades later. It is an extremely emotional tribute to all those who suffered and lost their lives during the war. I can’t seem to write anything significant after reading this story. Who am I to comment on such a beautiful book?

We are putting together our first magazine issue of the Women’s Post and ideas on how to design it go back and forth among us. It reminds me of my days in high school, looking out at the future and thinking that I could do anything — ignoring that I would still be the same person inside with all my fears and limitations. We will still be the same thought-provoking, intimate, and decidedly non- conforming publication on the inside — we’ll simply have a better looking shape, size, and cover. We will be the only news magazine for women in Canada. Finally, my dream of putting an intellectual magazine for women among all those ditzy glamour and fashion magazines looks much closer to a reality.

I am starting to doubt myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so cocky in sending the copy of our last issue to Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail, with that sticky-note slapped on the cover thanking him. He may not have known that his lawyer had sent that intimidating letter to me. He is such a gentleman that I just can’t picture him being that aggressive. A gentleman would have handled it quite differently — as I should have. I wish I could be more graceful instead of acting like a pit bull in a dog fight.

The last time I ran into Phillip, he had a twinkle in his eye that love brings a man. I picture him at his kitchen table leaning back and smiling with his eyes shut while his beautiful wife plants 100 gentle kisses on his face. I think he’s the type of man who would savour every single one of them.

The news is filled with doom and gloom over the economy. I’ve never been one to worry much over money, but now, with two young children, it’s surprising how much more important it has become. I’ve even noticed that I am bothered now when I see a business foolishly wasting money. Will I ever get back the artist in me?

Tonight at dinner our 4-year-old asked when he would be a baby again. My husband joked that he’ll be in diapers again when he’s 90, but we wouldn’t be around to change them. Huge tears rolled down my son’s face; the idea that things would never go back, that someday we might not be there, scared him … and it scares me too. I tell myself to embrace change, but am I fooling myself? Life seems so good that I wonder if it truly can get better, or if one day everything will come crumbling down. I kiss my son as he lies in his bed sound asleep; he looks so peaceful and angelic. I want to burn this memory into my mind, keeping it there to draw from should I need it one day.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

SARAH THOMSON’S JOURNAL — THE ART OF WRITING

The day is hot. I listen to the water lapping against the dock and watch a spider work in the corner of the boathouse window. She drips down, hanging by a thread. A slight breeze lands her perfectly against the window frame. The distance seems so great compared to her tiny body, but she scurries up an invisible cord and begins again. She doesn’t seem to notice the heat.

The wind is starting to pick up and small puffy clouds drift high above. What is it about the sky that makes me feel so small — like that tiny spider, but lacking her certainty of purpose, the drive that pushes her to repeat the same tasks over and over again.

I just finished reading Latitudes of Melt, a beautiful novel by Joan Clark about Newfoundland. Once again, I’m in awe of the author’s ability to weave description and intimate thought together, bringing life to the words on the page. I can almost feel the coolness coming off the icebergs she describes. The novel left me thinking about every relationship in my life and how important each one is.

I wanted to stay in the Canadian North and decided to read Elizabeth Hay’s Giller- winning novel, Late Nights on Air. It was a little like drinking a glass of Kool-Aid after a fine wine. I kept tripping over words and phrases that a good editor should have fixed. I can tell that Hay is an excellent writer. She knows how to catch a moment in time, but the flow seems choppy — as if rushed. The story drags a bit until a contrived attempt to entice the reader by referring to something “mysterious” in the future comes in about midway through.

The book was obviously rushed. My guess is that the editor was more anxious to get a good seat at the award banquet than produce a serious literary achievement. Most editors know when an author needs to do more work; they also know what it takes to produce a truly great, lasting book (which is often more time consuming, with less immediate payoff than one that will simply appeal to a mass audience).

I’ve had writers ready to kill me, only to turn around and thank me later for forcing them to re-write their copy. Writing gets treated by some in the book industry as a simple commodity, especially those that have been in the industry too long and have lost their passion for the art. Writing is an art, and the role of art is to enlighten. Writing must have a sense of purity; it needs to be free from the pull of politics, status, and the bottom line. Writing takes time. I’ll finish this tomorrow.

It’s another day at the cottage. I sit on our small beach and watch my two boys dig in the sand. The water laps gently against the shore until a speedboat goes past; its waves reach us with a flurry of activity until the gentle rhythm of the lake returns once more. I dream about life here 100 years ago. There wouldn’t have been as many cottages on Lake Rosseau then. It would have taken much longer to get places. I wonder whether time would have felt slower?

My dream is interrupted by a yellow speedboat that has come into our small bay and is circling, making huge waves in order to bounce the tube it is pulling. They don’t seem to notice or care that their waves are crashing against our dock, disturbing the peacefulness. In the city I would just tune them out, but here at the cottage I want to listen, to hear the sounds of the otters playing, the cicadas buzzing, and the wind as it whispers overhead in the pines.

I watch my husband dive into the lake. The water reflects the sky and trees around him. I love to watch him swim; he looks strong and powerful in the water as the sun glistens on his back. A crow calls and the lake becomes quiet once more.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

SARAH THOMSON’S JOURNAL — ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

The Women’s News feature on our website today focused on the lawsuit against news correspondent Nancy Grace and CNN. The suit claims Grace pushed the mother of a missing toddler to suicide through aggressive questioning. Grace grilled the mother, accusing her of hiding something because she did not take a lie detector test and had vague answers regarding her whereabouts on the day her son went missing. The mother fatally shot herself just before the network was to air the interview.

What bothers me most in this case is that Nancy Grace casts a shadow on the profession of journalism. As a reporter, she should have gone into the interview free from bias, in this way allowing the story to emerge, giving dignity to the mother who lost her child, and perhaps uncovering the truth of what happened. But, grilling the mother — like a criminal prosecutor — with the threat of exposure through national television, is cruel and turns the interview into a stoning. It may be her employers who encouraged her to take this stand, but each and every reporter has a duty and responsibility to her profession. I may be called old fashioned, but I tend to believe that all professions, even reporting for CNN, have a responsibility to humanity. A reporter must never put a story before the welfare of another human being, and that is why it is usually safer for all involved to enter into an interview without bias.

This morning I was contemplating life while power spraying the deck at the cottage. With all the rain we’ve had this year, the algae has grown quickly, covering every surface with a thin green film that gets extremely slippery when wet. Power spraying has a zen-like quality to it — but­­ my mind often wanders. I was thinking about dancing with our kids on the dock last night under the full moon. We watched our shadows jump and twirl. I wonder if believing in God makes it easier to live with the fact that these precious moments will one day come to an end. If I did believe in some grand design to the universe, would I stop living each moment to the fullest? I don’t want to make the trade, not yet anyway.

My husband and his sister make daily exercise look like a walk in the park. This week at the cottage I am determined to swim around the island. Today I swam a quarter of the way. Tomorrow I’ll swim half way and then the next day I’ll try the whole journey … unless the weather, or something else important — like the chocolate bars in the pantry — gets in the way. My tall, lean, gorgeous sister-in-law swims around the island every day; it takes her 20 minutes. Sometimes she swims it twice. I have to face the fact that I will never be as tall as she.

My nearly 4-year-old son starts school in a few days. I worry that someone will come into the playground and steal him away. Or he’ll run out on the road and get hit by a car. I worry that he will grow up and leave, that these precious moments we have with him will end. I worry that life will happen to him. I know it is silly. I want him to live a full life, but I know I will be the one with tears in my eyes as I give him over to his teacher on his first day of school.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

SEASON OF EXTREMES

The warm afternoon sun casts long shadows across the dock. A crow calls in the forest and a lone speedboat makes its way across the channel in the distance. It is September and most of the cottagers have gone home. This is my favourite time of year at the lake. The days are still hot, yet the nights need a warm fire.

I suppose it is the changes I like to watch. This morning the thick fog seemed to press down on the lake, flattening it; not even a ripple marked the surface. The sun came up bringing a faint breeze. Slowly, over the morning, the mist rolled out, caught briefly by the islands and trees along the coast until it vanished completely with the noon sun.

I read somewhere that if we don’t go through the difficult things life brings then it is harder to appreciate or recognize the good that life throws our way. For me, September is a month of extremes. On a warm, sunny September morning nine years ago, my father died. A year later, on September 11, many more people lost someone they loved. The trees above me are beginning to lose their leaves; they float slowly to the ground — mother nature’s tears.

Today on the Women’s News section of our website, I read about the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA,www.rawa.org). They are speaking out about the hundreds of young women raped in their country every year. Powerful and corrupt officials turn a blind eye to the atrocities.

With the deteriorating security in large parts of the country, things worsen for the weak and unvalued. A society that treats its women so unjustly is one without honour. Yet the men walk around mistaking religious orthodoxy for integrity. How does the world teach integrity to children who have been raped and pillaged? It is hard to turn away. Should we?

I am just in the middle of reading a copy of Money Magnet: How to Attract Investors to Your Business, a book written by one of our columnists, Jacoline Loewen. It’s printed by John Wiley and Sons, and so far I’m finding it very inspiring. Jacoline has a way of putting perspective on the challenge of financing businesses. She points out how many entrepreneurs make the mistake of not learning about what financing is available to them. She has me thinking of the various ways we will be growing Women’s Post — both the magazine and the website — and how important it is to have investors who will actively help us grow into a bigger company. Jacoline has a clean, honest voice; she tells it like it is. I know Money Magnet will inspire entrepreneurs to create stronger, more productive companies. Jacoline is driven by the impulse to inspire entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, and she’s done just that with Money Magnet.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

MY ELUSIVE FRIEND

I have an old friend who visits at the most unexpected times. The first time we met was on a warm spring night when I was eight years old. I had gone to bed, but my room was still warm from the setting sun. I opened my window and the cool night air crept into the room. Wisps of cloud high in the sky were turning from pink to grey. Dusk cast an almost magical light over the lawn below. Slowly one and then another spring peeper began to sing, their voices carrying up from the marsh behind the house. Within minutes thousands of them were calling, the air filled with their music — like a symphony. Suddenly, for a brief moment, everything seemed to align. I was pulled beyond understanding and I wasn’t alone.

And then the moment was gone. The frogs still sang, the night sky still hung on to the day, but once again I stood alone, my nose touching the screen. I searched for something. I know not what.

Then, almost two years later, on a cold January night, my friend arrived without a sound. I had spent the day building an ice rink with my brother. The forecast was calling for a deep freeze overnight. Our parents woke us just after midnight and we bundled up, tied on our skates and were under a star-filled sky within minutes. The ice rink was as smooth as glass. I glided over the ice and looked up at the stars, and suddenly my friend was there with me. Everything aligned — the dog barking far away in the distance, my sister encouraging my brother forward, the stillness of the night around me. I understood it all for an instant — held in the arms of an angel. And then it was gone.

Over my teen years I fell out of touch with this elusive friend. I’d almost forgotten her completely until one warm summer night on campus after a night school class. It was a great class. We had debated the views of various philosophers and my head was filled with ideas. I could see a few stars in the sky. The campus was quiet, a light breeze stirred the leaves in the oak trees around me and once again my friend was there. For an instant I wasn’t alone. I was more than myself, everything aligned like the pillars at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican and then it was gone and once again I was alone, my friend gone as quickly as she’d come, the breeze still rustling the leaves above me.

We spent last weekend at a friend’s cottage up near Algonquin Park. The long conversations, interspersed with quiet moments of thought while looking out over a pristine lake, were peaceful. Sharing ideas, agreeing, or disagreeing, while knowing that there is a mutual respect and a willingness to understand, is one of the most rewarding aspects of friendship.

At one point, three of us climbed a hill to a lookout point over the lake and sat in the warm sun, the smell of long grass, earth, and pines filling the air. A hawk wheeled high above in the sky, its cry echoing over the valley below… cre-eee-ar, cre-eee-ar. Suddenly, once again, my old friend had joined us. For a moment I felt more than myself, I was part of the earth and sky; part of the beauty around me and in them. My friend left as quickly as she’d arrived. We sat, looking out over the land, talking about life, kids, and the challenges ahead.

Later on the porch, the sun setting in the west, someone said…”Won’t it be great growing old together and seeing how our kids turn out.” Yes, I think I do hope we grow old with them, to live, laugh, learn, and keep striving to understand the world around us. That is what real friendship is all about.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca

MY WORLD, MY RESPONSIBILITY

The morning sun isn’t yet up but I can already feel the heat of the day coming toward me. The heat is like the sound of a distant army marching steadily closer, coming to burn all the moisture out of the day. Mist in the bay on the far shore hides in the shadows; it will be the first to go. It is hard to avoid thoughts of global warming on these hot August days.

I’ve just finished reading The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock – only a year late. I haven’t read anything by Lovelock since my years at university, but what strikes me is how true his earlier predictions seem to ring. I remember studying his idea of Gaia which, very basically, connects all living things in their regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment, contributing to the balance that allows life to exist.

Back then I thought Lovelock was simply incorporating the views of other, older cultures and putting his own spin on them. I took his Gaia theory and incorporated it into my own philosophy. I have always held onto ideas that have a sense of harmony and balance to them. The idea of every living thing contributing to the overall ability of life to exist on Earth makes sense. Everything contributes, all for one and one for all.

Although I took up his Gaia philosophy, I didn’t take it to heart. I suppose I didn’t truly realize the extent of the damage I was causing to the earth. I went on driving my gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting car and, for at least five years, rationalized that I was contributing to the environment by recycling and using my blue box regularly. I watched as each year the weather became more and more extreme. I listened as record-breaking heat waves hit Europe and greater numbers of major hurricanes pounded our shores. Reports of flood, drought, and famine flash over my computer screen every single day. Lovelock’s predictions of impending climate change seem to be coming true.

The environmental movement is gaining strength, as it rallies public opinion behind the science. Will it gain enough strength to cause the real cultural change needed to reverse the damage already done? I still go to work in an air-conditioned car, spend my days in an air-conditioned building. But things are changing in my life. I try now more than ever to write about the environment. I know that my next vehicle purchase will be a hybrid. I feel guilty when I leave the lights on, or use the air conditioner in my home. I usually avoid turning on the lights in my office. I tell myself that the little things count. I hope more than anything that they will.

Lovelock writes of how farming has changed over the years in order to feed the ever-growing population and of how we are stripping the earth of her bounty in order to feed ourselves. Mankind is now farming at least half of the available land on the globe, leaving very little natural world to renew the resources we deplete.

The Revenge of Gaia has a section on power generation. I’ve always been strongly anti-nuclear, but I should specify it as anti-fission. Lovelock points out the shortcomings of a lot of green power and his preference for nuclear fusion – the nuclear combustion of hydrogen. He writes about the Tokomak reactor at the Culham Science Centre in the United Kingdom and the prospects for fusion energy, which are fascinating: “Nuclear waste of a fusion reactor is the harmless non-radioactive gas helium, and there are no long-term radioactive wastes.”
He worries that although nuclear fusion energy is within reach, it might take 20 years before it takes hold because of the timelines necessary to build the fusion reactors.

Lovelock concludes that nuclear power must be supported because of how little time he believes Earth has before we go past the point of no return. He says it is a point where the globe will become too hot to support life and vast portions of it will turn to desert.
I wonder if we truly are that close to drastically screwing up the world. I don’t have enough knowledge to know. I have learned that the planet is incredibly resilient, but then mankind is incredibly destructive.

But what makes me a true supporter of the environmentalists isn’t their predictions, or the extremes of Mother Nature, it is that this whole push is forcing us to take the technology we possess and make it better.

For the last 20 years the vast majority of technology has been focused on gadgetry, with very few research and development dollars going into anything but toys. If the environmental movement can push research dollars towards real innovative breakthroughs that add to our knowledge rather than diffuse it, then I’m behind it all the way.

The thing I can’t understand is what the harm is in supporting the environmentalist movement. Why are some people so against it? If there is even a small chance that we could refocus the massive amount of time and energy spent on designing gadgetry, to instead come up with a solution for clean power generation, then paint me green and give me a tree to hug.

The sun is slowly lighting up the sky. Its light touches the tips of the tall green pines, making them look as if they are on fire. I must push away these thoughts of doom and destruction. Another hot day is coming… maybe it will rain.

Sarah Thomson can be reached atpublisher@womenspost.ca.

PEACE REQUIRES CIVILITY

The theme of this issue is war and peace – two opposite positions that play into every human relationship.

I’ve never lived in a war zone, or experienced war. I know how lucky that is. So I’ll focus on what I do know – peace. I know peace takes work. It takes compromise, acceptance, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness.

I watch my two-and-a-half-year-old son push down his younger brother for no apparent reason. He does it because he can, and because he doesn’t know any better. My role as his mother is to keep reinforcing what it is to be civil; to teach my son that harming another person is not acceptable. I know the day will come when he’ll understand… but it may not be until his younger brother is big enough to push back.

Civilization: A word that holds so much meaning, but counts for so little without the foundations of civility that hold it up. Civility requires that every person place society above their own personal gain. It requires compromise with others, acceptance of the laws, unwritten and written, that allow the society to flourish; at times, it also requires forgiveness – the ability to rise above spite, jealousy, and fear. Civility is taught from parent to child, but I think it is also strengthened by time, knowledge, and understanding. I think too that civility can be weakened over time by pride, wealth, and self-righteousness. I sometimes think that this civilization may, like Rome, collapse from within, destroyed by its own wealth, greed, and lack of morality. War engulfed Rome, but I wonder if they brought it upon themselves.

And now, today, our peacekeepers fight in a foreign land, trying to bring order to tribal culture, hoping for peace. I read somewhere that peace comes from within. Is this true?

The wind blew all night and most of the day, shaking the boathouse relentlessly. It makes me feel restless. The dog barking on the next island at 4 a.m. didn’t help. Our neighbours have a black lab and they completely ignore the fact that everyone else on the lake has to listen to its endless barking whenever they let it out in the early hours of the morning.

This afternoon, the same dog swam over to our beach. Wet and aggressive, it bounded about causing my two boys to scream with fear. I looked for a stick to beat it away from them should it come too close. A large rock was our only defense, but the dog backed away from my anger. For a brief moment I was going to smash its head with that rock. A primal urge deep inside me to protect my boys almost cost that poor dog its life. The dog’s owners passed by in a rowboat a few hours later and waved. I waved back, trying to be civilized, all the while thinking “there goes a bunch of selfish people who don’t care about their neighbours. I must not yell, or get angry. I must be civilized, controlled, and refrain from saying anything rude. I must show them what civility is.” I controlled my desire to war, and peace (enforced by civility) ruled the day.

I’ve picked up a dozen books today, but can’t quite focus. The boats zooming past on the lake add to this anxiousness. I decide to look for a peaceful spot. The path up to the old cottage is quiet and the tall trees protect it from the wind. I sit down and listen. I can smell the sun heating up the pine needles on the forest floor. I can hear the wind whispering in the pines and finally a sense of peace settles over me.

Whoever said that peace comes from within obviously hadn’t lived through days of endless wind and tormenting noise. I think it more likely that peace, like everything else, comes from the fine balance of internal and external forces. No matter how at peace I am with my life, no matter how calm my soul, mother nature will always affect me – reminding me that I am vitally connected to her.

FUNNY HOW TIME SLIPS AWAY – CONRAD BLACK’S BATTLE

The afternoon sun is hot on the boathouse roof. I lie down for a nap with my son and can almost feel the heat penetrating the shingles. There is little wind and a haze over the lake muffles the sounds – all but for the lazy call of a Phoebe.

I love these hot summer days when time seems to drip, slowly, in rhythm to the waves lapping at the dock.

I have asked our columnists to write about time – the most valuable thing we have. I wonder how each writer will tackle it? I suggested they might write about what they would do if they only had a day to live.

My day would be spent selfishly with my family – making love with my husband and playing with my children. I’d want their last memories of me to be warm and loving.

But when I think of time I think of how quickly it passes, and how much there is to do. I want to contribute to society – but how will I make the world a better place? There are powerful people who can change the course of history and I hope this newspaper can influence them to do the right things. But that’s a lot to hope for.

Conrad Black, once one of the most powerful men in Canada, is now facing a battle with time. I’m not part of the bandwagon of media people kicking him while he’s down. He’s had a history of creative business schemes that made auditors, bankers, and investors spin in confusion. And those who chose to invest in his companies had to know his history, but chose to back him despite it, because he had a reputation of making money. They took a chance, some lost, but a lot of people gained. That’s part of investing in a company with such a larger-than-life leader. He was able to create a second national daily newspaper in Canada, he took risks, and he led with a flare that very few business leaders dare to possess anymore.

I am sad that he was found guilty of fraud. Sad because he was once a hero to a lot of Canadians – he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for demonstrating outstanding level of talent and service to Canadians – and sad because he is a man who is extremely bright. There is something unsettling about locking up a brilliant mind.

It takes wisdom to manage time well. I know that Black will do everything he can to avoid jail. But they’ll never be able to lock up his brain and with the technology available today, much of what he does now will still be possible. He may end up being the first man in history to start and run an international company from a jail cell.

A few weeks ago I worked on a crossword with some help from Lord Black. It was before the outcome of his trial was announced, while he was waiting for the verdict. He had one of the largest vocabularies I know of and sent me some of his best words. I filled in the rest and the crossword in the previous issue is the result. It is titled “Lord Black’s Revenge” and is still available on our website. The more I think on it, the more I wonder what his next move will be. He is not a man to go out quietly like some corporate middle manager. As long as he is breathing Conrad Black is a man to watch, and only time will tell what’s in store for him.

The waves knock the boats against the dock, their rhythm seems endless. The heat pressing down on the surface of the lake makes it seem like oil rocking back and forth. I watch my younger son sleep. His tiny hand opens and closes as he waves in a dream. I wonder who he waves to and imagine one of his grandfathers visiting him. Neither of them lived long enough to meet my sons. Their time ran out, but they both passed on the importance of making the most of each and every moment. They knew the true value of time.