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Geez-Louise, Dad (J.K.)

Churn this around in your head.  It’s not that adults produce children.  It’s that children produce adults.

I was mulling about children in light of relatively new evidence that my teenager doesn’t think I’m as cool as she did when she was, say 6 years old. Or even 12.  Or even last year.  I have gone from amazingly cool to occasionally embarrassing. I was dismayed to feel the umbilical chord stretch for the very first time this Fall. We have had such a great run that I thought we would be immune forever. However, I am accepting of my new status partly because I have hope. That the chord will bounce back like a taut elastic.    In time.    Indeed, I am certain of it.

Because I too felt embarrassed by my own dad growing up. Painfully at times, telling my classmates about whole grains and the benefits of vegetarianism and meditation. But I’ve gotten past that. Or maybe the world just caught up?

Well, to be honest, he embarrasses me still. With different things. Here’s a current example; in his just-released TEDx UW talk, he shows a picture of me in hospital, clutching my IV pole and – hold on gentle readers – wearing a non-Stephens’ Sisters Shopping Diet hospital gown.

Joking aside, all the above is a rambling preamble for his wonderful talk. Check it out:

Truth is always stranger than fiction. When people ask me about my dad, I never know where or how to begin. So I’m super stoked that his talk is out. It’s a tip of the iceberg introduction: his paintings, his inspiring life path, his marriage to my (equally interesting) Indian mother and yes even our live liver donation story (now you are in on the hospital gown reference — Heck I’ll embarrass myself if it spurs someone else to donate their liver.)

On the quest for transparency, truth and social justice, it’s normal to embarrass your kids occasionally. Right? But every so often I’m surprised when my munchkins beg in stereo, “Mom please don’t talk about pesticides with [so and so]’s parents.” I smile quietly.  Sometimes I can’t help but say “You will understand when you’re older.” I feel that sharing valuable information with my fellow humans is worth a little un-comfortability. Because if you always stay within your cocoon of ease, can you make meaningful change?       Can you?

What do you think? I want to know.

I’ll close this post with the words of Russell Brand, who will certainly embarrass his kids. (A lot):

“Rebel children, I urge you, fight the turgid slick of conformity with which they seek to smother your glory.”

Auguri and the Befana

Auguri!

Auguri‘ is Italian, roughly meaning good wishes. It’s as multi-purposed a word as ‘Ciao’ and Italians can’t say it enough at this time of year.  Auguri derives from the ancient Etruscan and Roman practice of (guess?) augury which was studying the patterns of birds to predict whether a course of action (like declaring war) would be successful.

In the world’s first public museum (Gallerie Borghese, 1734), I saw this unusual ancient Roman marble statue of an old woman which got me thinking about how rare it is that we celebrate… old women.

  
January 6 is an Italian national holiday: the epiphany/befana.  On the night of 5th, la Befana (roughly translated to Christmas Witch) comes to bring treats for children. The 6th has always been special to me because it’s my dad’s birthday. Ever since I donated my liver to him in 2011, his birthdays are even more meangingful (Happy Birthday Dad!)  For Christians the world over, the twelfth day of Chritmas (12 Drummers drumming) is known as the epiphany and when the 3 Kings/Wise men came. The Befana was apparently invited to Jesus’ birth by the Kings. Although she didn’t make it, her legend is evoked on this day; she brings presents to children in the night and can give a wicked good sweep of the house while she’s at it. Throughout Europe, gift-bearing magical beings bring presents to children on the night of the 5th of January.

A couple weeks ago walking about Rome near San Giovanni in Laterano (oldest Church), Santa Claus came across our paths. Not a guy wearing a cheap costume and polyester beard but a normally-dressed man with red cheeks, bushy white beard and mustache – must not forget the twinkle in his eyes. My head swivelled around as I nudged my daughters who similarly started and stared in delight. Mr Claus smiled back, obviously used to such attention – especially in December A little part of me thought “What if he really *is* Santa?” before I reminded myself that despite my childhood beliefs (and a desire to believe in a jolly old soul who indulges  children’s toy fantasies)… Santa Claus in his present incarnation is a marketing invention conceived of by Coca Cola.

  
The Italian Befana is a traditon pehaps linked to a pagan goddess and subsequently amalgamated into a Christian tradition. If my North American family were to be in Italy right now, they would be forgiven for thinking that the Italians are trying to recycle Halloween treats with ugly witches on broomsticks at every turn. The witches have warts, wiry grey hair, Harry Potter broomsticks and are bundled in a scarf and plain clothes.

Thinking about the Befana, I started to imagine myself as an Italian child. Maybe my inner infantile Italian incarnation would be entranced by old ladies with homely nasal protuberances.  Would any of my Italian readers stare at old ladies – especially as kids- wondering if they were the *real* Befana?

What a lovely way to grow up, seeing hardy, hearty, non-fashionable grannies with warts and double chins  as magical creatures bringing candies for the good and coal for the naughty. (Actually all the kids get coal since none can be good all the time.  Worry not my eco warrior friends- the coal stays in the ground. Modern day children of Italy receive lumps of  black candy made of non GMO sugar).   

For this year, I aspire to learn more of powerful women, both real and imaginary.  May this year bring important changes via powerful and real men and women.  May our internal drummers pound away, may we dance  wildly to righteous beats, may we listen to our inner children, and harness our collective magic!

 

Biocide in me

“Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and share our heads.  How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons?”

– Jane Goodall

Results are in.

And they’re not great.

I’ve ridden a few medical roller coasters to know too well the sinking feeling of just *waiting* to take the test. Then waiting for the results. And then, finally, the surreal moment where it’s confirmed you have “it.” (It being the worst possible outcome.)

In many cases, “it” is a defined problem requiring surgery or unpleasant treatment. In other cases, it is not clear what is going on. In this case my “it” is 3.1 parts per billion glyphosate in my body.

Glyphosate in my body! 3.1 parts per billion! Huh? Say what? How? Why?

Although I have more questions than answers, I wanted to share this news with you. I’ve been slowly ruminating on the results, trying to learn more about its implications. Let me backtrack for a second…. In the summer, through the detox project www.detoxproject.org I sent off samples of my urine and kitchen tap water. They were part of the first ever batch of Canadian samples from a small group of Canadians including Tony Mitra, worried about toxic exposure to glyphosate. When the results came in a few weeks ago, I found that the tap water was blessedly clean. But the urine… Well… Here are my results from The Detox Project (previously known as Feed the World):

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If you’re not familiar with this ‘herbicide’ which I prefer to call a biocide, here’s a summary in the next paragraph. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in round-up, a best selling herbicide, a patented antibiotic and one of the worst things to ever be used in agriculture. Up there with DDT and Agent Orange perhaps? For a video summary about glyphosate in our food, check out Thierry Vrain’s talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiU3Ndi6itk

A quick summary- skip if you know about glyphosate. Glyphosate started off as a patented industrial descaler invented to bind to heavy metals. It was discovered to kill plants and then used widely as a herbicide. Resistance was spliced into most GMOs that are available for human consumption. This is in order to control weeds (I won’t talk about superweeds and resistance to glyphosate in this post). It kills plants and bacteria by disrupting the shikimate pathway. So farmers spray glyphosate on GMO crops such that everything in the field dies except the GMO plant. Some folks call GMOs: Glyphosate Modified Organisms. Glyphosate is also widely used as a dessicant, killing and drying out a field of non-organic wheat, for example, to allow the farmer to harvest the field in one go. (The wheat isn’t washed before it’s ground into flour.) Other crops are also subject to this dessicant treatment. This is not a GMO application, which makes it perhaps even more insidious. Glyphosate was originally considered ‘safe’ because it doesn’t attack human cells. Well, there’s a more sinister application of glyphosate; Monsanto patented it a few years ago as an antibiotic because they determined that it kills bacteria. Guess what? We humans walk around with 10 bacteria cells for every human cell.  So it attacks our micro-biome (the magical mysterious universe of gut bacteria).

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Glyphosate is not allowed in organic farming and this is one reason I try to feed my body and my growing familys’ bodies certified organic food as much as possible. When I sent in the samples I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe a low level of ‘environmental’ glyphosate in my body? Not purposely ingested of course, but emanating from the air (public parks and train tracks are sprayed with the stuff). OCD gardeners spray it on weeds like dandilions.  It can come from the water (polluted from industrial farming run-off).  Or perhaps from the non-organic food I ingest. I have read studies where unborn babies have glyphosate in their blood, and others that show glyphosate in wild animals. I have also read that in some studies, the chronically ill have higher levels of glyphosate in their bodies.*

I certainly didn’t expect such a level of 3.1 ppb.  What does it mean to have 3.1 ppb in my body of glyphosate? To be honest, nobody really knows for sure exactly what it means in humans.  But it’s certainly not *good* – how could any levels of this toxin, chelator, biocide, and antibiotic IN MY BODY be good? Without my permission. Without my volition.

Here are some links for you to peruse:

5 things you need to know about glyphosate testing:

http://detoxproject.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate-testing/

10 things you need to know about glyphosate:

http://detoxproject.org/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-glyphosate/

And for those of you who want to geek out:

Glyphosate in Numbers with links to peer-reviewed studies.

http://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-in-numbers/

So, you may ask, if I suspected that I might have glyphosate in my body due to environmental contamination, why did I spend money to test myself?

Simply put: I want to know.

I ought to know.

I have the right to know and empower myself.

Knowledge is the first step towards change.

Let me tell you what I want. I want my fellow citizens to be aware of this probable carcinogen and toxin insidiously entering our bodies.  I want our governments to change laws, to protect us and to focus on sustainable agriculture than replenishes the soil.

I want all toxic biocides removed from our food production. I want chemical company shills to stop claiming that glyphosate is safe to drink! But what I really really want is the growing of food to return to being an act of love.

Ah.. just take a second and envision that.  Smile. It’s a happy place.

See the shiny happy children of a clean world?  It’s summer and they are playing geocache in ancient forests, whispering secrets to butterflies in restored meadows, canon-balling into clean waters teeming with life, growing vegetables with their grandparents…

And thanking you.

 

[I dedicate this post to the brave and beautiful Australian women from Byron Shire Chemical Free Landcare Volunteers.]

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*Studies not funded by the companies that manufacture Glyphosate, tend to show that it is harmful.  In fact, the WHO declared Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.  The US regulatory bodies, however, have relied on research provided by the companies who will profit from its sale.

It’s different in Europe.  A few weeks ago in Rome, I was speaking with a forestry biologist from the FAO (sort of like the UN’s FDA).  Nicolas Picard said that the FAO has a whole department who researches the *sources* and *funding* of research.  They ensure that the research used in studies or to make important policy decision are independent.  Thus they discount the corporate research and University research primarily funded by industry. When I mentioned how Robyn O’Brien says that researches should wear lab coat or tee shirts with the logos of the companies that sponsor them, Nicolas gleefully agreed!

 

Paris Prayers

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.  It is mightier than the mightiest weapon devised by mankind.” – Mahatma Gandhi

France was wonderful to extend me citizenship after I married a French Man in Canada and birthed a French baby in London.  I was given full rights as a French citizen (even the ability to vote in French elections while living abroad) even though I never have actually lived in France. When I took the French nationality, they gave me new *French* names which still make me giggle (I chose Stephanie).

I am proud to be both French and Canadian with Indian and British roots.  And I carry a world passport in my heart.

I am sad for my French family and compatriots. I am sad about all the violent injustice in the world creating masses of pain, anger and disenfranchisement. I now redouble my efforts to make small differences in my every interaction. To continue to fight against injustice as a way to honor the victims of violence. In silent prayer, I see a better world where we find the good in everything and care for that good, nourish it and disseminate it widely.

I am a Farmer

“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.”

– Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Anyone recognize the voice?!

When I throw my hands up in despair over the latest GMO spliced with resistance to yet another biocide… Or hear ill-informed peeps tout dubious benefits of biotech… It’s enough to weep rivers of despair. But when I go to eat, I perk up and remind myself that I am not insignificant. No, I cannot automatically change all the misguided laws and foul decisions in the world with the sweep of my hand. I cannot reverse climate change by wishing for it. I cannot magically make all toxic chemicals vanish and extinct creatures extant. I cannot make billions of bees come back from the dead. And no, I cannot reverse the loss in biodiversity by feeling bad.

However, I can do little things. You too! Little things that you and I can each do daily and repeatedly. We can sign petitions for social and environmental justice. More importantly, we can choose how to spend each dollar in this consumeristic society we live in. We can choose what kinds of systems and companies get our support. And as we make the choices about what to feed our loved ones, we – by default – choose what kind of farms to support.

Voting with every bite on our forks. Because when we choose well, good things grow.

Farmer.

Sea Wench

“Not only do we care for and raise the plants but we care for wildlife and the natural environment in all we do, using labelling and information to promote a global consciousness of good relationship between our Earth, ourselves and all our relations. Clayoquot Sound was the site of some major protests to protect the forests and wildlife over the years and many people who made that happen still care for and work towards a better world for all.  This is our purpose, to enhance people’s health and well being, to encourage the sustainability of our natural world, to appreciate all that it gives us and to give back.”

– Sea Wench Naturals

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It has been a while since I’ve posted about random encounters and eco fashion.  The reasons are numerous and I have such a back log of things to share I really didn’t know where to start fluttering and sharing awesome inspiration. What got me going for today’s post is that last week my daughter’s dentist wanted her to get ‘sealants.’ Good idea, I thought at first. They prevent cavities. But, I actually know little about them except they are a coating to protect teeth. A flitting unease snaked through me with a shiver. I remember reading something courtesy of the EWG about dental sealants containing BPA, a synthetic estrogen (ie: a hormone-disrupting chemical). I sighed. Now I have a lot of research to do about looking up whether the sealant has BPA (or an untested equivalent) and whether it’s worth it do so this ‘standard’ procedure for the oral health of my daughter. Learning about what is ‘allowed’ and ‘considered safe’ in food has me skeptical in general about chemicals that I’m told are “safe” and “approved.”

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What does this have to do with Sea Wench? Admittedly, my segue-way is a little obscure. But it highlights the difference between things you don’t have to look up to see if they’re safe to use versus a synthetic chemical that didn’t exist before the 1950s. I have read much about our world’s toxic overload and so many untested chemicals.  For example that 2,4 -D (active ingredient in Agent orange) and glyphosate are now sprayed on GMOs in combination hasn’t been tested for safety. Neither have thousands of ingredients used in cosmetics and food.  The manufacturers declare them as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) and therefore don’t have to prove their safety.

Back to Sea Wench. One day a year tourists are welcome to go to Stubbs Island off Tofino. My husband and I traipsed about this glorious island exploring the beaches and forests and lovely gardens the owner planted decades ago.  It was magical. It felt prehistoric, fantastical, like we would bump into Morgane LeFaye or the Dsonokwa herself (she is sort of like a West Coast First Nation’s boogey-lady). We almost got lost in this misty dense rainforest but got out on the beach.  There we even helped some gals who were picking up bits of plastic debris in a beach cave. Here is a magnificent neon yellow skunk cabbage amidst at least 2 different types of ferns:

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I met Sharon and Chris from Sea Wench Naturals http://seawenchnaturals.ca/about near the main dock at Stubbs Island.  I had no idea they would be there.  Wowie wow wow!  Almost as cool as meeting Morgan le Faye.  The Sea Wench in the flesh! Boy, was I thrilled to meet Sharon and Chris.  Not only was I not expecting to meet the Sea Wench folks on this remote island, it was like I got to meet my favorite rock stars. I babbled on and on about how much I love their products and what they stand for. My effusiveness wasn’t to get free product but share the love I feel when I find souls doing what is just for people and planet. To my delight, Sharon gave me this beautiful sample bag and I decided that I would have to write about this encounter on my blog.  So I took their photo below.  Sadly I didn’t get info on their clothes – Sharon if you read this and your clothes follow the Stephens Sisters Style-Diet, please provide details (clothes must be bought in the country they were made in and/or be second hand and/or be made with sustainable materials and/or made ethically).  I know Sharon’s necklace is made locally; I met the talented artist who made it, who recognized me as Godfrey’s niece (forgot her name – sorry- if you read this, please let me know and I will update the post). I gave Chris a card for “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens,” which he is holding in the photo below:

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A bit about Sea Wench products here.  It’s all about the ingredients. The kinds of things in Sea Wench cosmetics include Thuja Plicata (Western Red Cedar Leaf) from B.C.’s Coastal Rainforest, Cranberry Seed Oil, Comfrey, Myrrh, Organic Canadian Cold Pressed Berry Fruit Oil, and nutrient rich red, brown & yellow Seaweeds from Clayoquot Sound. Myrrh is biblical, cranberries are native, seaweeds are nutrient-rich. My grandpa Rupert used to nourish his organic berries on the farm with seaweed. I bet I could safely ingest every ingredient found in these cosmetic products.  (Don’t worry I won’t eat the stuff.)

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In the opening quote I lifted from Sea Wench’s website, they mention the historic protests to save Clayoquot Sound from clear-cut logging.  Uncle Godfrey carved the Weeping Cedar Woman for these protests (pictured above). It was a big deal – I didn’t go but my sisters and cousins went out and protested. Even Canada’s former environment minister David Anderson protested. And of course, Sharon and Chris had to have been a part of it. Everyone standing up for the trees. Full-circle, man! We are all interconnected and interlaced. Highlighting and celebrating the noble, just and true…we are woven together in this cycle of inspired and inspiring.

Wood Storms, Wild Canvas Wins Gold!

Awards can be a wonderful thing. I was given a medal a couple of years ago for being a living organ donor. The medal sits in a custom wooden box on a shelf, under a 1970s wooden carved bust Godfrey gave me to when I was a teenager. The award is but a symbol. The actually blood and guts sacrifice is impossible to imagine when you see the medal. However it is a nice thing to look at every so often. It’s golden-coloured and shiny. It has a dogwood flower engraved on it (BC’s provincial tree). This bitty piece of metal is a symbol of that particular struggle and the triumph of life.

At my friend Elsie’s suggestion late in 2014, I sent a copy of my first book “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens” to the IPPY Awards: The 19th Annual Independent Book Awards 2015.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Then I remembered about it a few weeks ago. So, I went to the website. Didn’t see my book listed as a winner in the art category. So I forgot about it again.

Then yesterday, I got a big envelope in the mail.  I had no idea what was in it.  Just opened it up.  A chunky round metallic golden thing fell out of the envelope and almost broke my toe!

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Ouch!

My brow furrowed, I picked it up and was wondering who was trying to sell me what.  I get free pens, address stickers and books in the mail routinely.  Well….It turns out that my first published book won a Gold Medal for Best Regional Non-Fiction!  Over 5700 entries for the IPPY awards were submitted.  I was smiling.  (I should have checked the Regional Awards section!)

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This award is particularly lovely because it’s truly independent recognition – after years of planning and months of furious work with a free-spirited, loving, wonderful y muy complicado artist who is my father’s older brother. It is also a testament to all the people who contributed words, photos and stories… from my father to Lloyd Kahn to Robert Amos.  Peter Grant to Joe David to Aija Steele. Truly, many a time I worried that I might spend forever writing this book. There was so much I didn’t know about Godfrey and had to learn and pronto. I didn’t even realize that he was a ‘real’ oil on canvas painter until a few years ago! I thought he only painted watercolors and boats. How wrong I was!  His large murals go back to the 1960s. I had to learn the difference between a print and an original.  I had to learn how to use a camera. I ended up with a PhD in Godfrey. Over a few years, I sorted through thousands of photos letters and emails and needed Godfrey’s advice and blessing to incorporate the best of  them into the book. Of course (?!) I love Godfrey to bits but to say that the process was challenging is a bit of an understatement.

Here’s an anecdote that illustrates the process.

me: Godfrey can you please tell me about this boat?

Godfrey: It’s not a significant boat.  I sailed it a couple times and then gave it away.

Me: (writing this down: not a significant boat).  But I’d like to use it, it’s a beautiful picture of the boat on seaweed.  Please Godfrey!  Focus por favor.  What is it called? Where is it now?  When was it made?

Godfrey: Gah, it’s a modified Rushton Sailing Canoe wth a junk main.  I called it S/V Lil Till.  Now woah!  Hey! Look at this picture of my friend from Jamaica in 1964.  No – – OH! Look at this one!  

(30 minutes later)

Me: Godfrey can I just review with you some of these pictures before I leave?

Godfrey: Wait!  Just look at this picture now!

Me: Godfrey please focus with me.  

Godfrey: yeah, but listen to this groovy tune. This takes me back to Paris where I lived on the Seine in a houseboat owned by Picasso’s dentist. 

Me: Really?  Wow.  (looking at my watch and putting the photo of the boat in front of his nose).  Okay Uncle G, I have to go, I wrote that this is S/V Lil Til, a Rushton sailing canoe.  Also it’s not a significant boat.

Godfrey: WHAT!!!???  WHY ARE YOU SAYING THAT’S NOT A SIGNIFICANT BOAT!?  Gurdeep, it has travelled all over the world, on the Nile and in all the oceans of the world.  You can’t say that it’s not significant!

Me: (sheepish, incredulous and mildly indignant) I’m just reading back what you said a few minutes ago.

Godfrey: You have to get your facts straight.

FYI Here is the a photo of the page (and photo of that boat) that eventually made it into the book on page 114:photo (3) copy

Repeat this process for each image and word that went into the book.  The Storms in the title could very well refer not only to the art but the process of creating this book. We argued (in mostly a friendly way) ad nauseum. Poor Godfrey, neither of us had ever published a book before and we didn’t know really what we were doing.  The worst were low-res photos that would print small but looked good on screen. Godfrey couldn’t understand why… We also argued over text. Godfrey wanted me to not have any explanations about the art. He wanted to include his friends and their art. And write the whole book in Haiku’s. Or better yet, without any words whatsoever. “Make people really work to understand it,” was his idea. I like the idea of an experimental book but I wanted a more classic coffee table book. Godfrey is hard enough to understand to begin with. And his art! His art is multiple layers upon multi-dimensional layers of meanings and quadruple entrendres. Flipping through the book Godfrey wanted would be like going through his photos with him.  Interesting, entertaining and good until you had to go, leaving you a little befuddled if not entirely convoluted.

I won’t get into the time I was at the studio trying to get information on photos and Godfrey decided to modify a friend’s print with some red vino….

I started the book after I recovered from being an organ donor. Wanting to preserve highlights of Godfrey’s extraordinary life and ouevre before it became ‘too late,’ il libro became a top priority hobby for me. After making 7 blurb books (which Godfrey ripped apart page by page and rightly so), I decided to hire a graphic designer to speed up the process and have someone else to collaborate with. And hopefully team up with me to counter some of the more dada-esque ideas from Godfrey.

I started to work full-steam on this book after recovering sufficiently from rehab to write, talk and walk properly again. I thought it would be a gentle slide back into function. But instead of a soft landing, it was a hair-tearing few months. Fortunately, I met Marial Shea, an amazing editor who was able to be the literary sounding board I needed. She was the book’s big stroke of luck.

However, in the process of making the book, I found out that a graphic designer isn’t quite the same thing as a full-time book designer. I learned this to my chagrin (the hard way) the very week that the book was due at the printers. I thought the book looked great. I had pretty much sat next to the designer for every page, a lot of which was based on my own blurb book trials.  The cover needed to be redone.  Massive props to excellent graphic designer Dave Carey .

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Through this process of making an art book, I learned that it is mostly about the pictures. From my iphone to fancy cameras, if the photo isn’t fabulous, it renders the work (however impressive) dull. So much gratitude to the twenty-something photographers who contributed photos. Especial thanks to my cousin Aija Steele for her photography. (You can see her work at the Duck Creek Gallery on Salt Spring Island).

Even fixing up the low-res photos, Marial had issues with the book. She said to me that the average person probably wouldn’t notice the kinds of things she was concerned about from a book-design perspective.  I didn’t really know what she was talking about. But she convinced me  to scramble last minute to find a dedicated specialty book designer to complete the book. Marial explained that ‘book-people’ would really note the details. I asked my sister and mom their opinion and they both said, “Delay if you must but make the best book you possibly can’. Wise counsel. No wonder they are so successful in business.  It’s all about a quality product. A dedicated book designer is a person who has been perpetually smitten with a blessed evergreen love-affair with books. The fonts, the colors, the alignment. Where typesetting is top priority. Where consistency gives shivers up and down spines (pun intended!).

Book designer and photographer Jan Westendorp was on a first-name basis with Godfrey’s “Woodstorm” carving and was delighted to help make the book beautiful on a tight turn-around time for the ‘Book-intellgensia.” So, I got an extension from the printers (which wouldn’t delay the launch significantly). Jan is a marvellous creature. “I’m all about the project,” she said repeatedly doing what she called ‘a substantial renovation’ on the book.  True to her words, All-About-The-Project-Jan worked day and night to meet the deadline, redesigned every spread, changed all the fonts and even re-did some of the sailing pages multiple times.

It had to be. Right.

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Wood Storms, Wild Canvas is an art book, a coffee table book, a history of a uniquely talented artist. It was and is a labour of love. It was made with FSC certified paper. It was printed in Canada and made with eco friendly inks. It was not a cheap book to make. I am proud of this book. I am also delighted to inform that for the first 1000 books printed, 1000 trees were planted in BC. Beauty and industry must come full-circle and interweave cherished values.

Many people have told me how important the book is to them.  Long time friends and admirers of Godfrey’s work finally can make some sense of the artist known as Goofi. To have all his various genres in one place in full color with explanations to contextualize it – Ah how wonderful! To have a sense of the breadth and scope of his output. To read his own grammatically-creative and poetic musings. To hear from respected artists and writers about Godfrey.  To be just gob-smacked by the visual poetry.

It was a stormy ride but the proof is in the pages!  That Gold Medal validates all that hard work with uncertain outcome; it means more than the IPPY Book Awards could probably imagine.

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The book is available on amazon and at selected independent bookstores.  For more information, please go to woodstormswildcanvas.com.  To follow the art, please go to  Facebook or Instagram.  To buy Godfrey’s art, please contact Godfrey through his site http://godfreystephens.com/godfreysart/Welcome/Welcome.html .  You can also try Aija Steele’s Duck Creek Gallery http://www.duckcreekgallery.com/Welcome.html

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This is a sort of post-script written 2 days after this first post.  I was so excited about the award that I didn’t even look it up until just now.  According to wiki “The Independent Publisher Book Award is considered one of the highest honors[3] for books published by independent publishers.” Here’s a slightly fuzzy selfie (it’s hard to keep the camera still, I wonder how the zillions of self-takers manage to get good photos?!) wearing the medal with Godfrey’s “Endangered Species” in the background:photo