Claudia, 1995

today, august 9th, is my sister’s 60th birthday, otherwise known as the 31st anniversary of her 29th birthday. it is a wonderful reason to celebrate.

in two days’ time, on the 11th, it will be the 18th anniversary of her death. not exactly a cause for celebration, but surely another beautiful day in the more than 6000 since her death in which i will have a fond chat with my big sister and be grateful for her sistering.


when she died, the wonderful people i worked with gifted me a tree in her honour. it was a flowering japanese something-or-other (my memory fails me) and it was a stunning addition to the side yard. i imagine it is much larger now, majestic i would think, and perhaps vainglorious whilst in full blossom. and anyone who has enjoyed that tree all these years has unwittingly honoured my sister and she, in turn, has shared some of the magic which is her with them.

as well as the co-worker thoughtfulness, a friend of the family planted a tree in her memory in Israel. given the current situation in that part of the world, i do hope that tree brings a measure of beauty and peace to its surroundings and to the people who are in need of a measure of beauty and peace.

Claudia died of cancer.

it was a horribly miserable way to die. painful. beyond painful.

when she died at the just-new age of 42, she did so knowing she was orphaning her three sons; her husband had died 7 years previous. and though i was witness to the devastating physical effects of her cancer, i will never be able to come to a full understanding of the psychic, emotional, spiritual distress and torment she would have experienced in the 2 years between her terminal diagnosis and her physical release. living on through the stubborness of willpower, which she had in outrageous abundance, at the same time as trying to arrange for the posthumous care of her children is something which is simply beyond my ken.

such are the day-to-days, the exercise of immeasurable strengths in the shadow of immeasurable sufferings, of simply doing what needs to be done.

everyday warrior. feisty bitch. raucous dancer. unhappy spirit. intense. quick tempered and sharp tongued. kind. well-defended. brilliant and capable. fearless and terrified. Claudia.

so, in my mind, Claudia, cancer, and trees have a strong synergetic relationship.

birchby extension, or by means of some perversion of my freudian-esque defense mechanisms, Catherine Mooney and Campbell’s Cove Campground have become inextricably linked to Claudia, cancer and trees though they are separated by years and geography.

i first came upon Catherine Mooney in 2005 (might have been 2006) when she was organizing the sharing of trees as a breast cancer research fundraiser and i was populating my yard with indigenous trees.

oakat some later date, i was a volunteer for the Tip to Tip Biking for Breakfast event. as the support van in which i drove passed along rte 16, i caught sight of a beautiful campground and beach and was moved to immediately google it when i got home. and so, our [almost] annual camping trip to this lovely, small, highly personable campground began. Campbell’s Cove is owned by the Mooney’s and they single-handedly crafted an environment which is special in so many ways.

i began some conversations with Catherine about holding a fitness retreat weekend at the park. though it never came to fruition – at least not yet – she was quite excited about the idea and welcoming.

willowCatherine died last year. of cancer.

so now i have this weaving of  claudia-cancer-trees-catherine-trees-campbell’s cove-cancer  in my heart and mind.

i have 7 trees in my yard as a result of that first connection with Catherine.

they are not all thriving, though all are surviving. i did not stake them or provide any support to them in efforts to grow them straight and tall. i have not wrapped them in winter to protect them from the elements or from small hungry creatures. i was not interested in a particular tree-aesthetic so much as allowing them to find their own truth in growth.

they are sending out branches in relationship with sun and wind and whatever other factors affect their journey. they will be strong in the ways they need to be strong and beautiful in the ways that most matter. they will find nourishment where they stand and challenges in the same place. they may suffer weather conditions and insects and rodents. that is okay.

they will follow a path and live until they die. after their death they will continue to exist in some other form and will continue to contribute to life on this planet.

and so it is with Claudia.

me and Claudia, 1983

me and Claudia, 1983

she is not lost to me, we have simply moved into a different stage of our relationship. i cannot regret her absence for she is not absent from my life. there are no what-ifs or might-have-beens. it is what it is. and, i am blessed to have a sister.

we are headed to our [almost] annual Campbell’s Cove time in a few short days. it is always a sweet time for us.

i’ll have a conversation with Catherine while i am there.

i’ll talk to the trees.

i’ll not miss my daily visit with my sister.

happy birthday, Claudia. xo


*(i do hope i have not offended Catherine’s family, friends and lovers of Campbell’s Cove with this post.  they will not know me or of how her life and her trees have come to be a fond and important part of my inner landscape)