50 Images

Fire-Polished Driftwood at East Point Park, 2019
Teasels of East Point Park, 2019
Plant Shadow in Forest by Guild Park, 2019
Intense Wave at Bluffer’s Beach, 2019
Nearly-Engulfed Picnic Table at Bluffer’s Beach, 2019
Guild Beach Sunrise, 2019
Heart Leaves Beside Crockford Boulevard, 2019
Highland Creekbed, 2020
East Don River at Play, 2020
Organic Ice Designs Beside Betty Sunderland Trail, 2020
Sinking Tire and Branch Reflections of Eglinton Ravine, 2020
Eglinton Avenue East in Sunrise Colours, 2020
Grasses Beside the Parking Lot of Centennial College’s Ashtonbee Campus, 2020
Muted Tree Reflections on West Highland Creek, 2020
The Light in the Culvert, Taylor Massey Creek, 2020
Earth Day at Taylor Creek Park, 2020
Cormorant Watches and Listens at Taylor Creek Park, 2020
Elegant Wetlands of Taylor Massey Park, 2020
Dignified Reeds at Taylor Massey Park, 2020
Morning Walk for Lockdown Blues, Port Union Beach, 2020
Blurred Stone Corona, Port Union Beach, 2020
Wavy Reflections at Thomson Memorial Park, 2020
Regal Visitor at Highland Creek Park, 2020
Rest in Calm at Highland Creek Park, 2020
Daisy in Front Yard, Southwest Scarborough, 2020
Morning Glory on Sunrise Avenue, 2020
Weed Shadow Decorates Southwest Scarborough Home, 2020
Molten Light at Silent Lake Provincial Park, 2020
Day Breaks at Bluffer’s Park, 2020
Invitation to Wade at Bluffer’s Park, 2020
Hold Fast to What Illuminates at Farlinger Ravine, 2020
Sparkle Bath at Farlinger Ravine, 2020
Frozen Vista at Guild Beach, 2020
Dynamic Guild Beach, 2020
Movement Patterns of Water (Silvertone Filter) Guild Beach, 2021
May Your Day Sparkle at Guild Beach, 2021
Golden Ice Torch at Guild Beach, 2021
Ice Chandelier at Guild Beach, 2021
Partly Frozen Turquoise Lake at Guild Beach, 2021
Natural Ice Etchings at East Point Park, 2021
Water Swirls Among Ice Shapes at East Point Park, 2021
Eye of Shark’s Prow at East Point Park, 2021
Cracked Puddle in the Hydro Corridor by the Gatineau Trail, 2021
Playful Leaf in a Hydro Corridor Puddle by the Gatineau Trail, 2021
Illuminated Leaf, Southwest Scarborough Front Garden, 2021
Apartment Buildings Bathing at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Water Portrait at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Gracious Spring Presences at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Lyrical Roots at Taylor Creek Park, 2021
Gull Poised on a Rock, East Point Park, 2021

Guild Beach After the Storm

After the storm, thick spindles of ice sparkle on the shore. Some compose the jagged teeth of a driftwood comb and others fill the arch of another forsaken branch, stalactites with the sky for a cave.

Lodged in a firm stance between jutting shards of construction rubble, the wooden frame remains unshaken by thousands of gale-driven waves. Spells of freezing temperatures have collaborated with repeated lashings of water to construct this organic sculpture’s texture.

Like a silent harp resting on its side, its strings increasingly shellacked and bound, the sculpture contains a haunted a rib cage benumbed by cycles of fear, rejection, shame, pain, and grief. As storms of emotion intensify, the ice adheres more strongly: a freeze frame of memory rendered visible with bulk.

Come the melts of spring, the bare driftwood’s surface testifies to winter hardship after the shedding of its icy coat: a rough patch sanded down, an extremity sheared from its host.

However, despite bitter injuries to its heart-chords, the instrument still connects to the beyond. She still stands and bathes in sparkles. She still sings.

Eye of Shark’s Prow

East Point Park, 2021

At the freezing point,

wild west wind and lake spray

mantle the trunk like marzipan on a rich cake.

Thickened ice highlights the outer margins of the mass

and then darkens to charcoal-purple,

legacy of the long drift from forest

to midnight bonfires on the beach.

As it salves driftwood burns,

ice defines the border of a helmet

whose irregular edges soften the dark wedge,

trace translucent deltas of inflection,

ocean to river evolution

from eye of shark’s prow

to clinging mammal below.

A Stone Among Boulders in Winter: East Point Park

As I nestle between lakeside boulders, drifted ice drapes me in a veil. Successive layers of frozen water etch a daguerreotype portrait of arrested lava, once-fluid anger trapped by a season so heavy and cold.

Behind my nape, the thickness of the ice is greater, and swirls of gray-blue shadows entwine in smoky tendrils with hints of ash. From my chin, crystal shards have grown into a beard that flows from the seam where my edges meet the lake’s beach below.

The ghostly poncho that almost completely glazes me has left only an egg-shaped tonsure melted by the sun. In a few weeks, spring’s solar ascent will fully dissolve my obscuring cloak, but for now I am content with the small oval that lies exposed to the elements.

One day soon, an exhausted bird will warm its feet on my crown. Resting after miles of migration, my guest will sit for a spell all hunkered down into its feathers. As it turns its beak towards the water, it will flex its wings to the humming thwack of high winds that scour my quiet skin into forgiving sand.

New Year’s Vision Board and Valentine for the Self

Many Ways to Be, Catherine Raine 2021 (This piece emerged from a Journey Dance of Manifestation and Vision Board event that I co-facilitated with Sheilagh McGlynn in January).
Detail from Many Ways to Be, Catherine Raine 2021
Detail from Many Ways to Be, Catherine Raine 2021
Detail from Many Ways to Be, Catherine Raine 2021
May Love Be Yours, Catherine Raine 2021 (I made this giant Valentine as an example to show international students who attended a recent Valentine’s Day collage workshop).
Detail from May Love Be Yours, Catherine Raine 2021
Detail from May Love Be Yours, Catherine Raine 2021

Christmas Tree Stories

My grandmother Mary Raine gave me this Christmas tree when she was 93 years old. She no longer felt like putting it up every year, especially after the deaths of my father Ron and his younger brother Bob, so she passed the tradition to me in 2004, the year my uncle died. At the end of a Christmas haunted by Uncle Bob’s absence, I carefully wrapped the treasured tree in my suitcase for the potential rigors of its air journey from Missouri to Ontario.

I hadn’t decorated a Christmas tree since I was a teenager, but Grandma Raine’s gift inspired me to start again. My mother also gave me some decorations that had been in the family since the 1960’s, including cookie dough ornaments I remember from my childhood. 

Artifacts like the dignified Wise Man connect me to home, family, and Christmas traditions, for when I rest him against the tree in 2020, memory returns me to a much earlier era. Once upon a time, my father, mother, and brother used to decorate a full-sized tree together while Birthday the cat lay in wait to attack the glass balls on the lower branches. Christmas carols bathed the tree-trimming task in familiar melodies such as the “pa rum pum pum pum” of Dad’s favorite, The Little Drummer Boy.

I’m especially fond of the cracks in these circular faces that once inhabited the tree of my childhood home. The cracks testify to the survival of countless Christmas seasons, each with its own cat paw hazards, breakages, and transfers to new storage locales.

The small red wagon has a story, too. Mom bought it for me one December in the 1970’s when we visited Kansas City’s Wornall House Museum to see it decked out in nineteenth-century Christmas décor.

To blend new memories with the old, I supplemented the original ornaments from Kansas City with ones I bought from Ten Thousand Villages, a shop that specializes in handcrafted items ethically traded from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and many other countries.

Angels, elephants, lions, and moons mingle on the branches with a reindeer, a yak, and a yeti. Together, they honor Toronto’s multiculturalism and integrate the Christian traditions of my childhood with the religious and cultural pluralism that energize today.

In addition to a tree rooted in the present and the past, festive details like colorful textiles that Grandma Raine crafted — place mats and Christmas tree skirts — brighten the living room.

The other skirt can be seen in this post’s opening photograph.

Also, two books that I received as presents in the 1970’s surface with the arrival of Christmastide. The first one is Christmas Stories Round the World, kindly given by my cousin Denise.

The second book, The Night Before Christmas, evokes happy memories of my parents reading the poem on Christmas Eve, just as their parents read it to them as children. The rhymes and folksy illustrations contained in Grandma Raine’s 1974 gift are enjoyed to this day.

Finally, giant postcards that my mother purchased in the 1960’s serve as Christmassy accessories for staircase spindles. I love how they jazz up the stairs and suffuse the atmosphere with mildly psychedelic cheer.

All in all, sharing stories of Grandma Raine’s tree and other yuletide trappings has heightened my gratitude for gifts that gather layers of meaning as time passes. Thank you, dear reader, for indulging this narrative sleigh-ride through topographies of memory and family history. May your celebrations be merry, healthy, and bright!

Unhinged Condition

Unexplained on the wide sidewalk, the door stands upright with the aid of two wooden stands that grip its bottom rail a few scrapes above the absent threshold.

Though the door no longer opens or shuts, the stout pin of one hinge remains, partly encircled by a barrel of the same rusty vintage. Cracked layers of thick white paint on the panels accent the unhinged condition.

Without a hinge to hitch portal to solid frame, access to an interior is lost. For a hinge is the servant to movement. It facilitates welcomes and good-byes. It swings the dancers, defines transitions, provides an exit.

This displaced door reveals the crucial role of hinges, for entrance to beloved places relies on a connecting part so humble that its anatomy is rarely learned: leaf, knuckle, pin, sleeve. Visitors take the obedient swivel of doors for granted, assuming they can handle endless openings, hesitations, closings, and slams.

No longer a barrier between public street and private property, the door’s new context gives passersby the chance to pause and notice its value as an object divorced from human passage. Free from the press of admission and the drama of expulsion, it serves in a different way now.

With its superfluous locks and bolts on display, the unhinged door invites visions of access without traditional keys. For how might humanity evolve if restrictive concepts of ownership become unfastened from their jambs? How might we open ourselves without fear?

Insubstantial Chains of Self-Criticism

At nine o’clock in the morning, serrated leaves resting against the fence receive the signature of dark steel lines. With emboldened chains eclipsing the more delicate rows of veins, diamond shapes define the screen of the leaf-surface, imposing fence patterns on what should grow free.

But the fence’s shadow, looping and stamping itself at nine, will be gone by noon, leaving the victorious leaf unchained. After all, it never asked to be cast in a shadow play. Nor did the plant sign a lease with the barricade that straddles its roots. It only desires to rise from the soil in peace.

The tattoo of links is impermanent, for a seemingly solid fence in the morning becomes a shadow of itself as the day wanes. By psychological extension, shifting solar movements can suggest a hopeful metaphor: harmful habits that create barriers to happiness have the capacity to dissolve like so many shadow-chains. For example, the bruising self-criticism that overshadows confidence and disturbs inner peace may not be the iron-gray shackle of truth we assume.

If distorted thoughts are building a cage one steel rod of anxiety at a time, consider the power of one question, “Are these thoughts true?” Then take a deep breath and call chimeras out from their hiding places — behind benches of judgement, beneath shaming silences, under tongues that tsk-tsk on the regular — and watch them melt into phantoms with the passage of the sun. Challenge the cruelty that crushes self-love and reject the quelling projections of others. Above all, hold fast to what illuminates, such as visions of leaves that transform fences into natural trellises, limitless shelters that dapple and shine.

Memorial Collage and Poem for my Cousin Patrick Harvey Jones (1972-2019)

Cousin Pat’s Letter, Catherine Raine 2020

Not long before Pat died, he sent a card thanking me for a Christmas gift. The medication that he was taking caused his hands to shake, and it touched me that he still made time to write despite the difficulty. When composing Cousin Pat’s Letter, it seemed right that the piece should include an example of his handwriting, symbol of both his uniqueness and his suffering.

Detail from Cousin Pat’s Letter, Catherine Raine 2020
Detail from Cousin Pat’s Letter, Catherine Raine 2020

Many years ago, Pat collected antique glass bottles, so I fashioned a bottle shape from some handmade paper to provide a stem for his collage’s flower. Fragments of the thank-you letter became the petals.

Detail from Cousin Pat’s Letter, Catherine Raine 2020

In addition to glass-collecting, Pat enjoyed writing haiku. From 2002 to 2003, he composed almost two hundred three-line poems about cars, artists, coins, baseball, rock bands, and the antics of animals he observed from his window.

Born in Missouri,
Words and Phrases from Haikus by Patrick Jones
and Arranged by Catherine Raine, 2020

In the months after his death, I read all of the poems, and a number of words and phrases struck me as characteristic of Pat. Eventually, the gleaned words suggested themselves as a new poem, and I hope Pat would approve of how I arranged his lines to make this collaborative text. Like the memorial collage pictured above, Born in Missouri is devoted to remembering my cousin’s interests, creativity, and sense of humor. He died much too soon.

Treehouse Down (2020) with Recording by Sean McDermott

Hovering at the height of the telephone wires,

the man in a cherry bucket sheers a section of tall maple,

an aerial chef dispatching vertical stalks for the chipper.

The chunk of trunk falls to the sidewalk,

splintering the moment into a thousand perceived realities.


The sky-worker, one section down,

four more cuts to go before the break.

His co-worker below who feels the thud of dead wood

buzzing through his boots and grey hiking socks

all the way to his toes, soles, heels.

The startled squirrel that leaps with instinctive flair

from a truck to the trunk of an intact tree.

The papa two doors down from the amputated maple,

his baby fascinated by the moving shape

silhouetted against the morning sun

that makes the roaring beast chew the air.

A frail witness across the street

pausing in the task of sweeping her walk

to remember playing in the neighbour’s treehouse

that once rested on today’s fallen branches fifty years ago.


And in the house newly bereft of a steady shelter

a solitary woman stands sentinel,

long flowy curtains to one side,

nothing to hold back the rush of memories.

Like the day her father nailed the last plank

against the trunk, the ladder’s base

low enough for her, the youngest, to reach.

The crinkle of waxed paper that preserved sandwiches

packed for the children living out entire summer days

way up high in the branches with their comics, jacks, and fairy tales.

They would descend when the fathers returned from the munitions plant

 and the mothers called them to gather for dinner.


She turns away from the window,

wanting a reprieve from the present,

switches the kettle on, and cradles her favorite mug

against the inner curve of her shoulder.

The cabinet opens, shortbread biscuits inside.

The curtains fall back and summer subsides.