Sisters Donna and Dolores at the launch of What Shirley Missed at the local bookstore in Port Hope

The main character in this novel is Shirley Palmer. That is her married name. Women still have that choice. Her birth name is Shirley Anne Montgomery. This name recognizes a heroine in Canadian fiction. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote about Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. Why did I choose this name? Read on.

Donna at the Waterfront Festival in Cobourg

Nominative Determinism is an offshoot of a theory by Carl Jung and was known by the Romans as “nomen omen”. Thus the meaning of a name may play a significant role in the fate, talent and skill of its owner. So Mr. Baker makes bread and Mrs. Taylor sews dresses. You can see how enticing this theory is to writers choosing names for characters.

Donna gives a reading at Trent University in Peterborough

I came across the surname Rainbow when reading the obituaries in the newspaper. If I used this name in my writing the character would be optimistic and hopeful. Anne Shirley is known around the world as a fictional character. She is forever young. In my novel What Shirley Missed the main character misses out on many adventures including growing old.

Plant A Tree

A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in.

These hemlocks were planted by such a man. They were chosen carefully. The Eastern or Canada hemlock is a coniferous tree native to Eastern North America. Their small needles lay flat and the top of the tree is weepy. Planting any old tree species won’t do. Being mindful of the choice of tree makes for a stronger forest. To paraphrase the quote above by the character Penelope Wilton played in Afterlife: Good happens when an old man plants trees knowing he won’t live long enough to sit under their shade.

Yet it takes more than just planting to make good happen. It also takes tending. Invasive species can crowd out native species. Pruning dead and fallen branches is a big part of managing a healthy forest.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a botanist and environmentalist who champions the value of trees. She is particularly adamant that we protect the boreal forest to reduce the harm done by carbon emissions and to reduce the effects of global warming. Science does not completely understand how the chemistry of this happens so cannot alone counter nay-sayers. Recognizing how to make all forests sacred will go a longer way to achieve this goal. She was the inspiration behind Heartwood, an anthology of poems by Canadian poets who love trees and recognize their importance. Here’s my verse written for the good man who planted trees for the benefit of your children:

Moon shadows on the garden, Song breaks a cricket chorus, World of tall pines and dwarf plants

Vanished Hour

When I heard sharp rain hitting the roof I lifted my head to read the time on the digital clock: 2 am, but with daylight saving time, 3 am. An hour lost, but the loss I felt wasn’t time. I was feeling the loss of snow in the forest. I was remembering the brilliance of sunshine glistening off powder snow. My whole body was remembering the perfect experience of x-country skiing in the best conditions this winter briefly offered. There’d been a window of opportunity between bouts of freezing rain, plunging temperatures, and gale force winds.

Every muscle in my body was awake. I was feeling the afterglow of total physical engagement. I recognized it as a sensation that comes only after I go x-country skiing. I yearned to experience it again but knew I wouldn’t. That promise disappeared just like the lost hour.

There have been many beautiful days in my life spent on ski trails. In bed I was in a reverie remembering the past 2 days. One day I’d gone with a friend to a forest where skiers break trails. The woods are so close you sometimes feel you are going to hug a tree. We skied for 2 hours. The next day I went on my own to another conservation area where the trails are groomed. It seems safer because the trails are wider. When I stopped to take a drink in the middle of the forest there was silence. I soaked up the quiet, the sun, the isolation. It is very restorative to feel such peace.

What is winter without snow? Many dislike winter so much they flee to warmer climes. Last month I went to Panama and Costa Rica where I was privileged to plunge into a warm ocean, tour the countryside under dry skies, and soak up the sunshine. Yet I always question why we can’t all embrace the beauty of winter? There is so much to enjoy. Snow has its own beauty. No snow is worse than too much. Our forests need snow. It is a gift to our environment we will regret losing.


One morning the radio announcer ended the news broadcast with a “kicker”, a story about a kangaroo spotted in Austria, far away from its native home in Australia. No investigations at local zoos turned up a missing kangaroo. So where did this animal come from?

Decades ago I learned from my high school English teacher to listen to news broadcasts for the light pieces always delivered at the end. This happens without fail from CBC to BBC to ABC. I hoped this particular “kicker” would get resolved quickly.

When growing up my household received more than one newspaper. The comics section provided the lighthearted reading. I can still picture my father chuckling over those comic strips. My mother was in the habit of cutting out feature articles about my father’s sports career in lacrosse. She’d made a scrapbook which she kept that proved useful when I wrote a book about my father. I, too, am in the habit of cutting out articles, mostly about books or opinion pieces I find insightful.

Among my mother’s collection of loose newspaper articles I found a page about me. It showed a picture of fellow high school graduates from 1966. Although she had torn out the entire front page she hadn’t kept the rest of the article. Curious about what had been written back then I went to the local library. Fortunately the branch had a collection of early newspapers. I easily found the piece in the archives that were kept on microfiche. There I could read the whole article that named the graduates. Small town pride.

There was another interesting picture from that newspaper dated Monday, November 7, 1966. It showed a young man who was running for council. Although he had been a promising student, he had not gone on to higher learning like the graduates in the photo. Instead, he had settled down and started a family. I don’t know if he’d won a seat in council but I do know that his sister hadn’t graduated either and that she claimed to be in high school with me although she never was in my class. The record of that is in the year books which I kept. Remember them?

A Global Family

I belong to a global family. You may say you do too. You may assume I am speaking about the population of the whole world. You are correct about that assumption. We all belong to the global family, but I want to tell you about a very special global family. I belong to an international organization that behaves like a maternal family. There are some men who are members, but mostly we are women who dance together. The language of dance crosses all artificial boundaries. Therefore, if I travel to England or Japan, Australia or Sweden, Canada or Switzerland, I will dance the same moves as those members.

Continue reading A Global Family

Lloyd Wootton

Donna Wootton, eldest daughter of ‘Moon’, wrote this book about her father. It is available through The Ginger Press in Owen Sound: In the Prologue Donna writes, “The story caught my imagination not simply because it was sensational, but also because it was well told, full of supporting detail and, more importantly, full of the love of life.” You can click on the cover to read more.

Lost Items

The geography of my mind holds many items no longer in my possession. The most memorable item I’ve lost is a peaked cap – not just any old peaked cap – mine had the logo of the Waterfront Trail.


I like the simple design showing the three strata of the environment that the Waterfront Trail traverses around the Great Lakes: sky, earth, water. On the day I purchased the cap the sun was shining with pointillist light off Lake Ontario. When I lost the cap the sun was shining a pale light off the ocean below the cliffs of Dover.

Continue reading Lost Items


IMG_1973 Reading the Globe & Mail on Saturday is a tradition in our household. It is the only newspaper we pay to have delivered. The edition published on the last Saturday in August was worth the price we pay. Here in the Travel section is an article on paddling the Dumoine River. It ranks number one.

IMG_1974This could be a picture of my husband and I canoeing that river, me in the bow and he in the stern. What wonderful memories reading that article brought back of taking the float plane into the wilderness and landing with our gear amid the solitude. We were adventurous.

There was much more to read like how Kitchener might take back its original name of Berlin. I found that particularly article interesting because my mother’s family came from Pennsylvania to farm in Ontario and experienced the trials and successes that move brought right down through the generations.

We live in a country where writers can write and readers can read freely.

Role Playing

IMG_1726No, this isn’t an idea from NUTTY blog site. Role playing brings out the child in the adult. I’m the fairy grandmother who will grant you a wish or three. Beside me are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. You remember them from Alice In Wonderland? Their names have become synonymous in popular western culture for any two people who look and act in identical ways. We’re at MMM summer school at Trent and it’s dress-up time. We’re not nutty but we’re a little crazy sometimes yet we trust each other enough to behave in this manner together.

Continue reading Role Playing

Three Degrees of Separation

The saying, six degrees of separation, has become part of everyday parlance. It seems, though, that as one grows older that degree can reduce to half.
Here’s my most recent experience. I ask a friend to accompany me to an author reading. I offer her the ticket of someone who has gone south. She knows this person, too, though not through me but from a different association. She is an avid reader and happily meets me beforehand for sushi. I learn that she has been to another author reading at the Reference Library earlier in the week.
At the Heliconian Club, the venue for the evening, we drop our coats on two chairs then go downstairs to the washroom where we encounter a woman who, like me, regularly attends this series. I start to introduce her to my friend, a woman who I know from my old Toronto neighbourhood, only to witness them excitedly proclaim that they met one another earlier in the week at the Reference Library while standing in line to have the author sign their books.
A place that supports the arts
It’s with like-minded people at the places in common where the degree of separation shrinks.

Donna M. Wootton – Canadian Author