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Christmas Letter 2022

Season’s Greetings from Ron and Frances

Dear friends and family,

Another year has already passed. I can’t keep track any more. I think I missed out sending last year’s letter by mail to certain relatives who aren’t so quick on line. My apologies. 2022 has been a mixed bag for us, but with our situation of relative privilege the good by far outweighed the bad.

Ron found out that he wasn’t invincible. In February he had some knee problems and discovered a weakness he didn’t know he had that he has had to learn to adjust to — but he is walking well and continues to live mostly outside managing our compost system and shovelling snow. We’ve already had two big dumps this year. His great triumph was to rake and bag 70 bags of leaves to use in our compost system or for mulch, all from off property. In the meantime he continues to be an indispensable helping hand around Pacific Gardens.

I am so proud of my daughter, Karen Abramson, who has spent the year in the best (and most difficult) job she has ever had working very long days as the Camp Manager for A Coastal Gas Pipeline camp up near Houston, B.C. She is hoping that this job will provide the basis for a new start in life, and it looks very likely that they will keep her on next year.

We both have had the usual round of medical appointments typical of our age. They seem to occupy more and more time with more varied minor complaints. Ron is getting treatment to slow or prevent macular degeneration and I am (I hope) suffering a temporary bout of deafness due to a very long-lasting cold and cough.

In the meantime, last winter I took a Drawdown Course designed to get me off my butt and start doing something real about the climate. I decided my best shot was to work to get Nanaimo to pass a bylaw strongly discouraging the installation of methane gas in new buildings. Nanaimo is growing very fast and it will either really grow its emissions or substantially reduce them depending on its decision. I worked with a team from the Unitarian Environment Group, the Council of Canadians and the Nanaimo Climate Hub. We made a presentation to council that was very well received and distributed on video to many other municipalities in BC. Our bylaw made it into the city plan but it hasn’t been enacted yet. I’m still watching to see what happens. Fortis BC is a powerful company that is expert in greenwashing.

I joined the tech team to help our Fellowship go hybrid with both Zoom and in person access to services. Meanwhile, Ron spent the majority of the year holding our homeless shelter together as we went through solving problems and the resulting staff changes. For awhile he was mostly the guy in charge, negotiating contracts with the city and finding all the inadequacies of our systems. Fortunately, he also had a very good team to work with. He was serving on the Board as the liaison to the Shelter. We were both glad to join the choir again after almost 2 years of meeting on Zoom. It was good to sing together again, but the return to in person is very slow and the choir is much smaller than it was.

We were glad to set out on our annual trek to the cottage in July starting with a few days with my best friend, Joy Silver and John Slattery. You can follow the woes of the poor charging infrastructure, particularly over lake Superior in Ontario in my blog, Range Anxiety Year 2, at Because of the blog I enjoyed a 5-minute “moment” on What on Earth telling CBC Radio One listeners what I had learned. Thanks to Zoe Yunker for noticing me.

By far the highlights of our year were our visits with wonderful friends and family. We were so happy to host Joe Conner and Joan Turner for a few days in May and enjoy a cruise down Barclay Sound from Port Alberni. Maury Prevost also came and we enjoyed some nice walks in the Beautiful parks in Nanaimo. On our trip we enjoyed special visits with Bruce Hyer and Margaret Wanlin in their

lovely resort in Armstrong. We tested the capacity of our EV to go off the main road. We also renewed my 53-year friendship with Erich Endor and were glad to find my cousins Margaret and Gordon Braaten in reasonable health. It was also great to see their daughter, Barbara, who brought lunch. And we touched base with another 56-year old friendship (Gayle Johnson and her husband Dennis). Gayle and I were best buds at boarding school in Switzerland in the mid-sixties.

We had beautiful peace and quiet at the cottage, beginning a theme we have extended to the whole year — having times of real downtime where

we just enjoyed being in our surroundingsI enjoyed swims in the lake and we took a few walks to keep Ron strengthening his knee. We enjoyed the new deck while the weather was lovely and not too many bugs. We really enjoyed a visit from my brother John while we were there. Below, my 74th birthday.

And we took our annual sojourns to visit friends and family in

Toronto, Buffalo, and Ottawa. We enjoyed great visits and meals with Tom and Lorna Moorehouse. Tom arranged for Ron to touch base with some of his old teacher crowd. Sharyn

Devine and Glen Tarver hosted a lovely dinner party for us so we could see friend from the Don Heights crowd. We had a lovely visit with John Wilson and Kim in Buffalo and were

particularly delighted to see Karrah

and her daughter Lena who has really grown since we last saw her as a baby. Too bad Henry was unavailable. We lucked out and caught a quick coffee with Kevin Wilson and his wife Lisa, who both seemed to be thriving with all their kids doing amazingly well in school and finding their career path. We are so proud that Kerri will study International Affairs in Sterling, Scotland this year. In Ottawa we were hosted, again, by Margaret Linton and David Hudson, very special friends that we always enjoy connecting with. We arranged a couple of smaller parties to reconnect with Joe and Joan, and other friends in Ottawa. We enjoyed a beautiful coffee party on the patio with Elenor and Mark Mueller hosting, and a chance to connect with Marilynn and Helmut Kuhn. I was lucky that

Marina could arrange an afternoon of bridge for me. I was delighted to connect with Rev. Anne Orfald and Clea Derwent at Unitarian House. And it was good to enjoy an evening at the pub with Margaret and David, Linda Goonewardene and her husband David, and Maury Prevost.

On the way home, we had a wonderful connect with

Ron’s special friend Diane Gossen who organized a very enjoyable house concert while we were there. And then we had four very special days with Basil and Brandi and my brother Pete in Lillooet. Pete drove us to see the spot where the creek that feeds Basil’s farm has its origins, and took us up to Apple Spring. It was wonderful to see how the land had come back after a fire had swept through last year. We had the chance to go fishing where the Salmon were running. (Basil did the

fishing — and it was delicious.). We scoured Brandi’s garden for anything they hadn’t already harvested and brought home peppers and squash and basil and tasted the pears. Brandi taught me how to make pesto and we enjoyed working in the kitchen together. We got eggs from their chickens and meat from their cows and got to watch while Basil herded the cows back into the coral after a round of feeding on the open pastures. We saw their shop where they make fir doors, and appreciated their water system that they share with the fire service and thus get paid to maintain. It gives them water for the house and shop and also to irrigate the pasture land, as well as providing emergency supplies to the fire service in case of fire. Basil has also built a wood chip outdoor furnace that heats both home & shop.

Then, suddenly there we were, back at Pacific Gardens, jumping right into the regular routine of coffee time, night rounds, walking with friends, lots of fun social times, meetings to keep things going, and caring for those who are sick.

The fall has been particularly rich with Theatre, musical events of all types, and lots of political action if you want to engage. It never stops and you just have to figure out what you can manage. Retirement life can be as busy as you want it to be —- or not.

I was sad to lose two good friends this year that I have known ever since I was in the Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice. Don McDiarmid (seen here on the left with Bob Staveley, and Marya Nyland (seen here with Sylvia Krogh who spent time with her the day before she died and held a wake for her on the day.) My sympathies to Louise McDiarmid and Philip Symons - also dear friends.

We are reminded every day how lucky we are to be able to sustain ourselves, financially, even through rising prices and the turbulence and disruption of war, climate change, and extreme poverty for many people. I know we are all doing everything we can to open people's eyes and stimulate action. I'm not very proud of my generation's legacy.

Didn't paint much this year. Here are two that I completed:

We are hoping all of you are well and in good spirits. Sending you all our love and best wishes for 2023.

Love, Frances and Ron

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Dec 29, 2022

Lovely to read your newsletter Frances and Ron. Your adventures and activism is really inspiring. Wishing you both much energy and good health for the future.

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