I want to say something about Cynthia’s gifts to my life, the most obvious one being that she published my first book Threadbare Like Lace, an event that changed my life completely and brought incredible riches to me in the past eight years, in the form of awards, recognition, and hundreds of letters from readers all over the world.

A year and a half ago, in November 2003, Cynthia published my second book A Northern Woman, and was also my editor for the project. I am grateful to her for her skilful, helpful editing and I am also grateful for the process of working closely with her as well which turned out to be a lot of fun, much to the surprise of both of us.

She had a mischievous and delicious bush vocabulary and she didn’t hesitate to use it when the occasion demanded it. I believe it used to be called colourful language. She was a really funny woman, bright and articulate with a wicked sense of humour. Cynthia really understood the importance of laughter. I believe it was one of her communication skills, this laughter. She was a genius at the succinct one liner. Unless she was talking about the Canada Council or some right-wing politician, when she could sum it up with just one word – none of which I could repeat here.

Cynthia was full of stories, amusing, interesting, amazing stories from which I learned many things. One vitally important lesson to me was in hearing her speak of her deep love for her family and its history. Her stories illustrated ways in which the complexity of love can change and grow as we age and gain new perspective

She once told me she liked several of my poems about “good men” because they reminded her of her brothers and her father. “That man in that poem of yours called 'A Passionate Man',” she said to me once, “the one who loves his wife so much, he is just like my brother. You have described my brother.”

Recently she brought me a spare copy of the Geist magazine in which Edith Iglauer’s essay about Frank White was published. “Read this,” she said, “this is about my father. Read it, this is him. He’s my dad.”

Over the years I learned a lot from her stories about her early life, and the values that resulted from the unconventional upbringing she and her siblings enjoyed as small children in a float logging camp in Greene’s Bay.

I had raised my own three children in the bush, on a remote wilderness farm, and believe strongly that such a life can contribute to making children independent, resourceful and resilient.. Years ago Cynthia gave me Howard White’s book Writing In The Rain where I read about the marvellous times they had as children, and in the story “The Bomb That Mooed”, saw a photo of Cynthia as a three year old with thick curly hair, standing on a dock. When I first saw this picture I said to her: “But look at you, you look the same now as you did then, a sort of indomitable spirit with this marvellous little three year old curly headed afro and the rebellious stance, and the baby defiance, standing there with your prize fish in your hand."

“Oh yes”she said, “that is when I was known as Mrs. Bad Keeky. That was my role in the pretend games of those days. We all had pretend personas. We played in those personas all day long, sometimes. And I wasn’t always Mrs. Bad Keeky, sometimes I was allowed to be Mrs. Good Keeky as well.”

Its all there, on page 33 of Writing In The Rain.

Like all of you, I am filled with sorrow that her unique and valuable presence in the world has been lost so young, just when she was embarking on another of her re-creations of her own life.

Cynthia had re-created her life more than once and was just beginning an adventure with her partner, Don Smith, in a house with a magnolia tree in the yard at Red Roofs and a vast widening of horizons ahead. It seems so unfair that this has happened just when she was hitting her stride.

I mourn her untimely passing deeply, this woman who was invited into Simon Fraser University right out of grade eleven, this modest woman who never seemed willing to take credit for her outstanding achievements, this woman who left such a legacy to education, literature, northern culture and the community, and who put the voices of Northern British Columbia’s writers out for all the world to read.

In her memory, I would like to read a poem Cynthia liked very much, it is called:

I Want The Pipes To Play The Flowers Of The Forest.
©Jacqueline Baldwin, Threadbare Like Lace, Caitlan Pres, 1997.

old rattle-trap green pickup truck
driving my little ones down the big hill to school
a wide-eyed neighbour boy along for the ride
confided to me:

“I’m awful scairt o’ dyin”

didn’t dawn on me for twenty years that
he may have been referring to
my driving

at the time I thought
how profound
wondered if his parents noticed his
six-year-old sadness
talked with him about it
would it be natural for the son of a
big-game trophy hunter to think:

maybe me, next

I want to enjoy my own funeral
leave a lasting impression
as it were

difficult when you can’t be there at the wake
cracking jokes
drinking tea
weeping and celebrating

it would be good to have on my tombstone an
inscription that is

“I told you I was sick”


“What the hell are YOU looking at?”

I want a walking funeral with a Dixieland band
Saints Marching In and Wolverton Mountain
Danno and Morgen riding horses
Chris playing trumpet
women in long dresses with their hair streaming
in the wind
dancing along with the music
glad they knew me
following a horse and wagon that will carry my body


it isn’t dyin’ I’m scairt of

it’s that life
this glorious bubbling untidy lovely laughing stuff
will go on

without me

…and this second one that we both liked very much.

A Passionate Man

times were lean
they went to town only about four times a year

one day
in town for repair parts
grain for the chickens
basic underwear for the children
lamp mantles, wicks, kerosene
coffee, sugar, flour

she saw
propped up on top of a five foot shelf
in the army and navy surplus store
framed by sunlight from the window behind it
by white snow
and blue Canadian sky

an enamel dinner plate
made in Poland
bright red
with yellow daisies
circling the rim

she stood in awe
astonished by the song of the colours
wondering about Poland
spellbound by the music of red

in this cold winter that seemed as if it would never end
a winter full of potatoes and turnips from the
root cellar
ice on the drinking pail inside the house
frozen fingers holding the cow’s lead rope
down the path to the barn

this plate

she turned the plate over and over
wishing she could buy it
dreaming of seeing it on her own wall

her husband watched her reverie

look, Jim, she said, look at this

he knew she was just admiring it
wanting only to share her delight
she would never spend a dollar ninety five on herself
he knew she would be thinking:
Jim works long and hard for his money
carrying a chain saw in heavy snow
wearing snowshoes
dangerous work

she considered every purchase carefully
always weighing the value of the item
against the work he did to earn cash for the family

he reached over
picked up the plate
and eight others
walked up to the cashier
plates held high

he put a twenty dollar bill on the counter
turned to smile at his wife

laughed loud at her expression of shock

she would have trembled buying only one

he bought them all

nine times the redness of one
nine times the daisies

still laughing
he bent down and whispered in her ear

the plates are for you
he said

your joy
is for me