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New Year's Letter 2021-22

Dear friends and family,

My reaction to thinking of writing a Christmas letter this year was . . . nothing. I had no motivation. Did anything happen worth writing about? BC stayed relatively open after July 1st and we have been lucky to stay healthy and live a cautious but relatively normal life. By the end of the year, we were totally zoomed out, and totally grateful for Zoom which kept all our communities alive and running. Pacific Gardens was a great place to be because we could go outside often and visit with our neighbours at a distance without masks.

We got our second shot just in time to escape from the two-week heat dome in BC and leave for “interprovincial travel”. We adventured across the country in our EV to see how it would do in the mountains. (See my blog, “Range Anxiety” at

We were about to start out to go visit brother Pete in Lillooet, but had to take a pass because the day we were to leave it was 49 degrees C in Lytton and the whole turn just burnt in a flash. These are pictures of my brother's place in the mountains near Lillooet. The fire went right around his place. The firefighters gave him an honorary firefighter's badge for his amazing site prep. His cabin completely escaped.

It was a shock to go across the country and see how many places were not open at all, or struggling to survive. Those who were trying to keep open were having difficulties finding workers. As usual, we tried to connect with friends along the way. We missed visiting our friend Diane in Saskatoon because they had only one public EV charger in the whole city. We were lucky to catch a visit with Margaret in Thunder Bay on the way out.

We had a wonderful time at Eagle Lake with quick trips to both Ottawa and Toronto to visit friends. A big thanks to Margaret and David and Tom and Lorna for their hospitality. Ron laid in a year’s supply of wood, and finally used the wonderful cedar planks he had received as a gift to build a deck overlooking the lake. I painted and read. It was great to lay down all the obligations and anxieties and just chill out. I feel like I got my brain and my spirits back.

For the first time ever, for a few days the smoke from Northern Ontario made it all the way to Eagle Lake and even Toronto.

This year I joined the First Unitarian, Nanaimo’s tech team and got used to making slide decks and sharing slides and spotlighting for our amazing Zoom services. We are so lucky to have Rev. Debra Thorne as our minister through this time. With her penchant for theatre and the arts she really helped us keep our spirits up. Ron had his busiest and most administrative year in a long time. He helped update our HR manual and align it with the HR manual of the Shelter just in time to stick handle a situation at the Shelter. By fall he had become the lead on the Shelter Management team and has spent the whole fall solving the problems and getting reality in alignment with policy. His strong, steady presence was appreciated by many in both the shelter and the fellowship. Now, all we have to do is find a new ED.

It was a big year for my daughter Karen. She moved to Kamloops in the middle of the year and tried to find work there. Jobs were hard to find and hold. She has met a lot of people and gained a lot of experience along the way. It’s a tough world out there and she is honing her survival skills. Most recently she worked at a camp for the Transmountain pipeline project as camp safety officer. In the midst of it all she completed two classes with great marks.

We ended the year with something I had never heard of before, a series of “atmospheric rivers”, a very focused stream of rain that has a path like a river and drops massive amounts of water in a very short period of time. BC went from heat dome to fires to atmospheric rivers and flooding so massive that all of our major roads were shut down from either floods or mudslides. Supply chains disrupted. We’ve had multiple evacuations and home losses. We’ve had many deaths: from the heat; from the fires; from the floods; from our opioid crisis and from the pandemic.

I can’t help wondering how the stock market can be at its all-time high when we have had so many disasters right across Canada over the year. It is perfectly clear that climate change is here, we have huge recovery and rebuilding costs, and we are massively in debt. Why is there such a disconnect? Clearly there are winners and losers. How will we ever get our leaders focused on making a transition to a sustainable circular economy that distributes the rewards more fairly and treats the natural world with respect?

This year I read the stories of people who have suffered from the cruelties of life and how they coped. Residential School survivors. People who have lost their culture and reclaimed it. Stories from the migrants fleeing climate disasters and war. Stories of racism. And I’ve read stories of human ingenuity and the new understandings of the brain, and of how we fit into the web of life. I’ve been inspired by new approaches to economics and philosophy and theology; and by new technologies being tested that offer creative solutions. I’ve explored the connections between poverty, racism, and the climate crisis. Everyone I know is searching for how to face all these realities, look our failure to act on them in the eye, and still remain hopeful and keep our spirits whole. With the Hindu god Shiva, we are all dancing the dance of destruction and creation. I so hope to see the scale tipping in favour of a new vision for society, (one that reclaims a positive relationship with the natural world and leaves no one behind), before I die. Time flies by faster every year.

I’m going to end my letter this year with a prayer and a blessing I received from my dear friend Joy Silver at Christmas:

“It is said that we are the first generation in history to have faced a precipice of human extinction; and we are the last generation that can prevent it.

Imagine taking in the beauty of a candle, a tree, or star-lit Christmas Eve.

Imagine breathing deeply into our hearts, minds and spirits.

Imagine the power of hope that matters, and,

Imagine in our mind’s eye, our joining hands with others,

Resolved to take flight t’ards correcting our course.

And then . . .

Let us believe we can commit to a real flight into our New Year 2022. Thus there, believe that we will help weave a precious fabric of a new world dawning -- one, just and equitable for our planet Earth, and, for our seven generations to follow.”

A young girl on TV told me: “We must be able to imagine it, or we can’t make it happen.”

Sending our love to you all,

Frances and Ron.

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Elaine Spilos
Elaine Spilos
Jan 23, 2022

Ah, Frances, heart-felt, honest, thoughtful, caring. Thank you for sharing Joy's prayer of hope.


Jan 23, 2022

Thank you Frances for this post. May we get over this huge hill to see the sun shine the other side.

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