On the eve of 2013…we’re still here!!

Well we didn’t blow up, and who knows why the Mayan calendar ended? Maybe the maker simply ran out of space. Maybe it starts again from its beginning. I personally think it signals the beginning of a new era. It feels like that to me.
Critters 3

What a year this has been! Incredibly great things, and unbelievably challenging and difficult things, at the same freakin’ time. I’ve been having great dreams about elephants this year, and Ganesh is one of my favourite deities. I’ll take that as a sign that obstacles are being removed as is Ganesh’s wont.

I am grateful for all my “teachers” in whatever form they came into my life. I learned a lot about boundaries this year. Coming from a childhood where boundaries were blurred and often violated, this has been a long slog but I think I finally get it. This year I learned what I’m responsible for, and what I have no control over, where I end and others begin, what I “own” and what I don’t, and even what is true and what it not. It’s not that these are new ideas to me, but what we know and what we really KNOW, are two different things. My most oft picked tarot card all year was The Wheel, which to me is about following my destiny, and just as important, knowing that all others around me are, too. (I firmly believe I was born to tell this story of John McCrae and Bonfire.) As for some of the people around me, sometimes it’s hard to watch the choices people make but I really “got” that this is not only out of my hands, but none of my business!

Every January 1st I pick a few oracles for the year. January 1st, 2012, they could not have been more significant or appropriate. One of them was the Gateway rune. You are standing in a gateway on the threshold of a new life, but you cannot pass through if you’re going to drag along any old shit; judgement and blame, resentment, anger, etc. That has been one of my biggest challenges this year, to truly dump that stuff once and for all. The one tarot card I picked for the 2012 new year was Justice, which is all about cause and effect, legal matters, karma. Hoo boy, was that one timely.


In the summer I walked over grounds in England where the subject of my book, John McCrae walked and rode his horse, Bonfire. It was powerful to walk the windswept Salisbury Plain where the Canadian soldiers, and especially their horses, suffered such hardship in the worst winter in memory. It was beautiful, but there was no mistaking what it must have been like in the freezing winds and lashing rains from October to February of 1914/1915, without any shelter most of that time. I felt it was a perfect wrapping up of my tracking John McCrae’s footsteps before finishing the book.

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

I got lots of great bike riding in in 2012; no long ones this year but some nice day trips and some great riding down in L.A. with my buddy and new rider, Grace. She called me today actually, to tell me she’d ridden for 2 and a half hours, all by herself. She kept thinking she should get home but just couldn’t stop! Hmmm, sounds familiar. One of the best rides around here was down to visit a friend on his farm near Hays in southeastern Alberta. Just a beautiful day; badlands, canola fields, coulees, great sweeping curves along the rivers.

Ride to Hays, Alberta

Ride to Hays, Alberta

All in all, despite the difficulties, it was just an amazing and unforgettable year…in a good way. Our farm is still for sale. I think the delay in selling it was meant to be, too. If I’d had to move suddenly, in the middle of getting the book finished and launched, it would have been a disaster.

At this moment I’m the “go to” person for Soldier’s Heart while the bosses, Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt are in Viet Nam for 3 weeks. I have to field their phone calls and answer emails. It’s exciting to me that people of their stature trust me enough to put me in this position! I am honoured.

My next project is to begin a screenplay from Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman, and find a team that wants to see this story debut on May 3rd, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the poem, In Flanders Fields. Go big or go home, eh?

So…this is my end of the year/New Year’s blog. Last year I spoke of surrounding myself with like-minded people and I’ve made important strides with that. Yes, I’ve burned a couple of bridges this year, but that was not accidental. I go forward in peace and with the best of intentions. Gateway into 2013, here I come!

I wish you all a fantastic, joyful and inspired 2013!


Jack and Bonfire hit the road…


I’m starting to plan a road trip with the Bonfire book for May, anniversary of In Flanders Fields time. Aside from the fact that it is actually the time at which the poem was written, about the 3rd of May 1915, I’d like to pique awareness and interest at least at one other time during the year. In Canada we focus everything on Remembrance Day in November, and then thoughts about our soldiers and veterans slip away for a whole year. Unless of course you have serving or fallen soldiers in the family.

My goal is to have this book in every school library and public library in Canada. I haven’t been turned down yet, in this area anyway. Generally librarians look at it for a couple of seconds and say, “Yes, we’d love one.” It’s a no brainer. Now I just have to decide, do I go by motorcycle or car? Guess I’ll have to get one of those little trailers for the bike!

One of my favourite reviews so far…
Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman, by Susan Raby-Dunne, captured my heart and taught me so much about the true story of John McCrae’s journey through WWI. If you are an animal lover you will adore this book! As a high school principal and educator, I am always seeking resources that will engage students and encourage them to read. This heartfelt story will resonate with students while teaching them the true meaning of the poem, In Flanders Fields, and remind them of the importance of honouring all heroes (two and four-legged!) on Remembrance Day and all days thereafter. I will remember Colonel John McCrae’s bravery, compassion and devotion to his cause whenever I wear the poppy. I will remember Bonfire and Bonneau for their unwavering loyalty to their master and their gallantry as animal soldiers.” – Leah Kingston, Principal, Ecole Secondaire Highwood High School, High River, Alberta.

UPCOMING BOOK EVENT – December 15, 11 – 4 Shelf Life Books, Calgary

Please come out to Shelf Life Books in Calgary on 4th street and 13th Avenue for a “Meet the Authors,” event. I will be there with writer/photographer Larry Semchuk and his beautiful book about wild horses of southern Alberta, Running Free.

New Reviews and McCrae Effects…

Since I met Terry Fallis earlier this month, and he told me his grandad served with John McCrae in WWI, plus he loaned me McCrae’s actual spur for the launch and other Bonfire book events, I have met two more people whose grandfathers served with John McCrae. What in the world is going on?!

Captain Lesley Clinton Fallis was a doctor and served at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital(McGill) with the CAMC beginning in June 1916. Neighbour Nancy Murray’s grandad, Gunner Harold Wheelock Borbridge joined right at the beginning with the 1st Brigade CFA (Canadian Field Artillery) and today I met Jennifer Smyth in High River, quite the historian herself, and her grandfather was also with the same artillery brigade. This is too weird for words. If and when I find an explanation, I’ll let you all know.

New Review…

“I read your book. It is precious, absolutely precious… Everyone in the world needs to know that John McCrae and his horse, Bonfire are Canadians, war heroes, and, John McCrae is the author of In Flanders Fields, which everyone quotes so liberally. Your book is superb. Your gentle yet revealing perspective is brilliant, and I received quite a little education too. Thanks Susan…I applaud you.”
– Katie Trafford, businesswoman and owner of Equiproducts, Calgary, Alberta

Yikes. Hope my hat size doesn’t increase!

Bonfire says, “Oh, Pshawww. Don’t get a swell head!”

Bonfire Book Event, Tuesday, November 20th, 7:00 p.m. Owl’s Nest Books

Come out to the Bonfire reading and book signing this Tuesday night at Owl’s Nest Books at 7:00 pm. in the Britannia Shopping Centre at Elbow Drive and 50th Avenue SW, Calgary. There will be wine and snacks, too!

11/11/2012 Remembrance Day

Attended a good Remembrance Day ceremony today at our local high school The auditorium was full; lots of veterans, cadets and scouts, several mounties in red serge, a good slide show and meaningful words. The Sgt. at Arms had us pay special appreciation this year to Afghanistan veterans of which there was a surprising number. It has been part of my mission this year to acknowledge the younger veterans and remind my fellow citizens that they are all around us.

I was impressed with the numbers of young people who attended this year. Also the cadets were great; very well drilled.

Left to right – Afghanistan veteran, WWII, a Lion’s Club volunteer, Peacekeeper -Yugoslavia veteran

Someone this morning asked me what I thought about the “white poppy.” I told them I thought it was a bad idea on Remembrance Day for sure, even though I get the intention behind it. I don’t necessarily disagree with that. The problem is, and I’m thinking especially of WWII veterans here, for many of them, their experience in WWII has defined their entire lives. The red poppy also is a defining symbol for most of them, worn in devoted remembrance of friends and loved ones lost. We cannot imagine what they saw, did and lived through. No matter the intention of the white poppy, it is perceived as a hurtful affront to them, and all they suffered and lost. I would say it is a legitimate symbol, but not to wear it on Remembrance Day. That is not the time or place for it. That’s my opinion.

McCrae funeral photo from the Bonfire book. Notice at Bonfire’s head; General Currie 6’5″ and McCrae’s best friend, General Morrison, 5’6″

Let us be worthy of them.