Back in Action

Sorry I’m so very tardy on the weekly blog post, friends and neighbours. Looking at this one, I’m chagrined to realize it’s been a month since my last, and I still haven’t managed to get a couple of posts ahead, which I really must do. Mea culpa. Mea culpa.

Also, I definitely found myself retreating into the domestic since my last post. I won’t lie – the news of the world sent me inward. Then, when I did venture forth, I found myself focusing on matters close to home. Work. My family. The garden.

So, I hope you’ll accept this short post, and a promise that I am going to do a feature on CPAP machines next week. Thank you to everyone who has sent me their thoughts and experiences on this important tool for sleep apnea health support.

It’s been a large few weeks, I must say. I had the opportunity to be part of a fundraiser that earned about $250,000.00 CDN for community-based programs and services for people with autism and their families throughout Nova Scotia.


Over 500 t-shirts handed out, and we’re still smiling!

In family news, I enjoyed my son’s first band concert at what will be his junior high school next year, and witnessed him graduate from grade 6.

Aiden grad

All grown up!

And we finally had our long-crumbled driveway paved. This seems pretty mundane, perhaps, but it was HUGE for me.


The only question is, why haven’t I already covered it with a big chalk mural?

Of course, I planted my garden…


Then, there was the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and like so many I have been grieving. So many young lives lost, so much anger and pain converging, and new layers of tragedy revealed in every headline…

Maurice Forbes, center, holds a candle with others during a vigil at The Center, a community center for the LGBT community, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Las Vegas. The vigil was for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Maurice Forbes, center, holds a candle with others during a vigil at The Center, a community center for the LGBT community, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Las Vegas. The vigil was for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (AP Photo/John Locher)

And then Brexit. I have no words for how strange this all seems from this quiet Canadian shore… I don’t know what to make of it, but I know there are so many people affected, and that the fallout is far from over.

Followed by the suicide bombing in Istabul. It’s a humbling thing to realize how much we are beginning to see each other as friends and neighbours around the world more and more, as we share and support each other in times of pain.

Of course, we continue to see bizarre headlines out of the American presidential campaign every day, or so it seems to these eyes… There is a sense of cautious anticipation here, even as we celebrate the strength of ties with our neighbour to the south.

Trudeau and Obama

Photo credit: PM Trudeau, Ottawa 2016. Twitter: @justintrudeau (OMG I couldn’t resist!)

Thinking on all of this, I was at the same time thinking of all of you, and our Sanctuary. I am still finding it difficult to find the words I want to share. Gratitude, emotional availability, joy and pain. Trying to allow honest experience and responsible engagement, while still being mindful of my inner health. Meditating on compassion. Combining caring and action. Affirmation of community, visibility, support, and diversity.

And very, very real excitement about some amazing opportunities and connections coming my way, both in my daily life and through this magnificent District of Wonders.

I regret not posting here sooner, and hope you are all well. I wonder if you would like to share how you manage “the weight of the world”, or if it doesn’t affect you so much, and how you do in times of change or strife. Do you retreat? Or do you mobilize? Do you write or create art? What is your Sanctuary?

Our facebook private group and public page are great places to share your thoughts, or links. I really want to thank everyone who has posted over there – you are really making the Sanctuary come alive, and it is so generous of you to come in and share your time with our community.

It’s Canada Day here – 149th birthday of our nation – and I must say that the mood is ebullient! My son and I are on our way to the Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Halifax, and it’s sure to be a wonderful time. He was unable to sing in the Tattoo Children’s Choir this year because his voice has dropped (my baby is growing up!), so now we are going to be in the audience to cheer on his bestie, the magnificent Miss Emily.


Just a little wee show… (2015)

Canada's Finest

Canada’s Finest (Choirboy)  (2015)

Aiden and Emily 2016

Aiden and Emily 2016

Wherever you are, and whatever you are experiencing today, I wish you well and welcome. Always.

Thank you for being a part of our District of Wonders community, and our Sanctuary. Keep being kind whenever you can. It matters.

All the best,




Sowing the Seeds of Sanctuary

Robyn’s Rubble Birdbath, 2016

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Sanctuary.

Robyn Bradshaw here. I hope that this post finds you well, or at least knowing that you are in the company of friends while you visit here.

It’s the very early summer here in Nova Scotia, Canada. Traditionally, we don’t plant our gardens until after the first full moon in May, and even then we have to be mindful of frost.

Yummy yummy 2015

Yummy yummy 2015

Do you have similar folk wisdom where you are, shaping the motions of life to the changing of the seasons? If you do, please tell us about it. After all, the District of Wonders is about stories – and The Sanctuary is about *our* stories.

The Rose nn

The Rose & Kettle Tea Room, Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum

In that spirit, I’m going to present here a re-print of a piece I wrote a while ago for the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum that touches on my own family, community, and history. I’ll pop in some photos and links, some historic pics, and some shots from my garden – my own personal Sanctuary.

A Little Treat from My Garden, 2015

Ever since it became so easy to take photos on a whim, I find that the experience of documenting my favourite spaces, moments, and vignettes has deepened my appreciation of them. If you would like to share a photo essay of your favourite spaces, or your personal Sanctuary, I would love to hear from you!

Whatever you sow, I hope you reap peace and satisfaction. Remember: it takes both sun and rain to make a garden grow.

All the best,


Tomatoes, 2015

Down on the Old Cross Farm by Robyn Cross Bradshaw

First published: 1 July 2013

Updated: 5 June 2016 

I guess you could say that I grew up on the old Cross farm.True, by the time I was born it had been years since the area surrounding Mount Edward Road, back to around Prince Andrew High, had been farm land. The growing city of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia had taken over by the time my father was in his early twenties, and our land had been sold. Now the streets off Mount Edward Road are mature residential communities, dotted with schools and churches and the stuff of urban/suburban life.

And yet, the Cross farm is still there – in the names of the streets, the old farm house on Elwin Crescent (named for my grandfather) just off John Cross Drive (for my great-grandfather), our family grave sites at the historic Woodlawn Cemetary, and in their living descendants  – yes, we are still here.

The Cross family farmed the rocky soil of Nova Scotia for a long time, and has left stories behind. In the 1750’s, Conrod Cross came from Switzerland, through Halifax, to settle in Lunenburg along with the group of German and other European settlers collectively known as “the Dutch”. The Cross family then moved out of Halifax and put down roots through Lunenburg and Tancook Island where the living name and some very old gravestones can still be found. I hear that some were none too pleased with Frank Parker Day’s 1928 novel Rockbound which was inspired by the distinctive rural life of Tancook Island – and contained and some all-too-familiar family names from the area. (Personally, I thought the story was delightful, and the wonderfully captured dialect of certain characters reminded me of much-loved elders now passed on. Perhaps almost ninety years ago it was a little too close for comfort…)


You see, Mr. Cross, the family in the novel is called “Kraus”. So, you know… no problem, right?

From Tancook, my great great great grandfather, John Cross, moved on to Conqeurall Bank on the LaHave River outside Lunenburg.  His son, my great great grandfather, John “Edmund” Cross and Edmund’s brother Stephen came to Westphal, now a part of Dartmouth. Edmund’s son, John Edmund Cross Jr., continued to farm the Cross land, and in 1910 built the farmhouse that still stands on the street that now bears his name. His sons, including my grandfather, Ernest Elwin “Ernie”Cross, were the last of the Cross farmers to steward that land, which they did until it was sold to the city piece by piece through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Cross farm specialized in mixed vegetables, selling at the Halifax Market and to wholesalers. My father reminisces about the season starting with the picking of dandelion greens. Then came “absolutely huge” cauliflower and heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, carrots, radishes, beet greens and swiss chard. There were string beans, iceburg lettuce, and potatoes. We have a photograph of my grandfather from the newspaper – we think he is selling a cabbage to a woman at the Market – you just don’t see cabbage that size these days!

Ernie Cross

My grandfather, Ernie Cross – the handsome farmer in the fedora at Halifax City Market

I was intrigued to hear that the Chinese population of Halifax particularly liked kohlrabi (which my father pronounces “call-a-rah-bee”), which dad said was “like a turnip that grows on the ground with leaves coming out of the top”, as well as older cauliflower which had “gone to seed and sunburnt” (sic), which was apparently a unique favourite of that clientele.

Interestingly enough, my dad and grandfather always thought kohlrabi was “just for the Chinese”, but it is actually common in German-speaking countries – like where my family originally came from! My suspicion is that racism and segregation of the Chinese popultion likely overwrote my family’s oral history of this crop. I have no evidence to support this theory, but it is an interesting clue to an all-but-forgotten past. I was interested to hear this fragment of a story, and would love to know more.

Also, kohlrabi is delicious! Naturally, after hearing so much about it, I now grow kohlrabi every year. I always seem to eat it raw right there in the backyard as soon as I pick it (yum!), but if anyone has any recipe ideas please send them along!



Been there, grew that, got the t-shirt.

There were also some livestock at the Cross farm for personal use. They had horses, cows and chickens. They kept these for milk, butter, cream, and eggs, and for doing work. Dad doesn’t remember keeping ducks, but he certainly remembers collecting their eggs – he thinks perhaps they were living wild around the pond and brook. Every so often, they would raise a cow for beef. They made preserves and jams and jellies, pickles, smoked bacon and ham, sauerkraut and Lunenburg sausage. Many of our family recipes remain, and my parents still make some of them at home. Lucky me!

If you’re a foodie, you may enjoy checking out some recipes out of Nova Scotia’s German heritage here, and maybe take a look at our many other food traditions (Acadian, Mi’kmaq etc.) starting here.

Basically, this is the Bible.

Basically, this is the Bible.


Going to junior high school in Cherrybrook myself, I was humbled learn that the Cross farm was known as a good employer for people from Cherrybrook and Preston, which are significant black communities with historic roots as rich and deep as my own. There were many farmhands hired to work on my family’s farm, including people from these communities, and some of the family ties from those days are still remembered. I am told my grandfather and his siblings were raised in significant part by a housekeeper from the Preston area by the name of Cora Crawley, who my great grandfather hired after his wife suffered a significant physical ailment and was unable to actively participate in raising their children. Cora is remembered as being the significant source of motherly love and influence in my grandfather’s life. I would love to hear more stories of the positive bonds between our communities that stem from our farming days – I suspect there are many that are worth remembering.

I grew up with the stories and the legacy of the Cross farm. My grandparents, Ernie and Greta Cross, would take all of us grandchildren down the road to see the brook where the cows drank and my dad learned to fish, and to the Woodlawn cemetery where generations of the family now rest. We could look across their backyard to see my great-grandfather’s old farmhouse where a new family now lives. My father, Robert “Bob” Cross raised us tending a vegetable garden – a relatively huge one on the suburban scale – and he taught us the skills and stories of hunting and fishing and family projects that informed his upbringing.

To this day, my brother Derrick, my sister Shella and I still live within walking distance of the old farm house, and we are raising our children with its stories and traditions.

Oh my sister is gonna kill me for posting this...

Oh my sister is gonna kill me for posting this…


And if that doest do it, this will.

And if that doesn’t do it, this will.

Maybe shell

Maybe she’ll forgive me if I post one of her eldest, carrying on the family tradition with style!


The descendants of Ernie and Greta Cross include:

Their children: Robert “Bob” Cross (Carolyn Cross) – my parents, Sharon Muise (Kevin Muise).

Grandchildren: Robyn Cross Bradshaw (David Bradshaw), Ellen Day, Derrick Cross (Fiona Buchanan), Shella Cross, Angela Day

Great grandchildren: Jacob O’Hearn (not pictured below), Aiden Bradshaw, Brianna Smith, Hope Smith, Moira Cross, Barbara Cross


Just try getting all 5 of these critters in one shot!

Just try getting all 5 of these critters in one shot!


This article is based on my recollections and interpretations of family stories, and the help of my dad. That said, any errors are all my own.


Thanks, Dad!

Thanks, Dad!


This year, I am growing strawberries, sugar snap peas, carrots, scarlet runner beans, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and assorted herbs and flowers. And, of course, kohlrabi.

I’m also attempting to attract songbirds and hummingbirds to my feeders and new DIY birdbath, and hoping my crops won’t be carried away by local raccoons, deer, insects, or hurricanes.

Whatever you are growing in your life, in any sense, I wish you a productive season.

All the best,

Guest Post from Stephen Kilpatrick, host of Tales to Terrify


Hello everyone,

This week I’m so pleased to present some words from one of the most familiar voices in the District of Wonders – the host of Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick.

If you are already a listener, you will have heard this already in Episode 225, featuring stories by Lauren Beukes and Joanna Parypinski. What a fantastic episode!

Thank you, Stephen, for your leadership in the spookiest neighbourhood of the District. Huge respect and appreciation to you and the whole Tales to Terrify team.


Stephen Kilpatrick

Tales to Terrify has never been overly concerned with awards. When I was working with Larry, when I’d bring up the topic of upcoming award shows, he’d generally seem uninterested in doing anything beyond the work we were already doing. And, I think I understand that. We show up, do the work we’ve volunteered ourself to do and hopefully produce a show that our listeners enjoy. If it landed us an award- all the better. When we got the nomination, the District all seemed ecstatic and when we found out being on the Rabid Puppies slate, that soured. When we discussed the situation, I feel I constituted most of the voice to ask for our name to be retracted from the awards show. We don’t do this for the laurels, but for the love of the genre, why be in the middle of this?

I have to say, I’m glad that I was in that minority, and I listened to the reason of wiser heads in the District. I’ll tell you the reasons why. The Hugo’s may not be important to me, but they are important to so many who enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and our flavor of the genres, horror. The graphic used by the Rabid Puppies has the slogan, “Making the Hugos Great Again”. And that’s not true. That slogan suggests a creative energy, and there is only destruction in their efforts as evidenced by our inclusion, among other authors, projects, and artists, who have no alignment with the ideals that are presented here. It’s an effort to poison the well. Furthermore, that single largest reason that I am happy to stick in this is, well, you. Tales to Terrify’s listeners have circled the wagons and shown us an overwhelming amount of love during this strange time. Any motion forward between now and the announcement of this years Hugo Award winners will be for you.

However, before we move on to our business as usual, I’d like to speak to a section of our audience that I know does exist. And that would be the people who have an ear turned to the efforts of the puppies. What I would like to say to you is that the place that the puppies were born, the frustration of conservatives in a space with an overwhelming majority of liberals, is a real place. I remember when Orsen Scott Card, author of one of my favorite books of all time, Ender’s Game, spoke his mind about homosexuality, and he was labeled a homophobe and there were calls to boycott him. Although I disagreed with what he had to say, I do not disagree with his right to speak. And if we truly blacklisted someone for their personal beliefs or opinions, Tales to Terrify would never air a word of H P Lovecraft again. And that is not right. The genesis of the puppies frustration is valid, and speaking to that, as far as our show is concerned, the only merit that a submission is judged on is it’s worthiness to be accepted, narrated, and aired is whether or not it is a great story.

Where we disagree with the puppies is the destructive expression of those frustrations. Please, engage in creative dialog with your peers. Fiction is the place where we all found we could explore or dreams, our hopes, think about things that would never exist in real life. When we were kids, how many of us found our refuge in the pages of our books? As adults, how many of us vacation on other worlds, crawl through caves in search of lost magics, or sweat in fear as we run through the darkness, if only for a couple hours after our day-to-day? We are all a community and we should all have a voice. Please, never, ever forget that these fictions make us a family. We don’t have to always be a happy family, but don’t forget your sisters and brothers are your brothers and sisters.

Stephen Kilpatrick

Well said, Stephen.

It took some effort for me to get over being enraged at the Rabid Puppies for dragging Tales to Terrify into their game, but I am so grateful for the opportunity it has presented for conversation.

Thank you, brother. See you, and all our brothers and sisters, in the District of Wonders.

All the best,





Mulling on the Porch Swing

Hello everyone. Robyn Bradshaw here. I hope you are all well.

I’m taking a day off from work today, just sitting in the shade in my own personal Sanctuary, and thinking of all of you and what we are creating here.

I don’t have a formal post this week as I seem to be mulling on something… well… something, anyway. It has something to do with connectedness and community, and something to do with storytelling and (in)visibility, and how to open space and welcome diverse people and experiences while hearing and supporting each other.

However far apart we are, in physical space or racial/political/social/economic context, sexuality or gender identity, age or stage of life, etc., we are fortunate to be able to listen to each other here – to be “all in this together.”

This may be a few different “somethings”, in the end…

What do you think? Am I onto something of interest?

Or are you maybe looking for something completely different than my decidedly middle class, middle aged, white North American woman meanderings? I’d like very much to hear that, too.

I think our common bond in coming to The Sanctuary is that *everyone* experiences hard times in life, and no one in the District of Wonders should feel alone (thanks, Tony). For that very reason, I would absolutely *love* to hear from even more people whose experiences and interests differ from my own.

Thank you to everyone who has come by and been a part of The Sanctuary so far. I think we’re building something special here.

Let me know your thoughts, or drop a note and let us know how you’re doing.

All the best,


Special Guest Blog: Mindfulness by Ralph Woodcock

Hello everyone – so sorry for missing a week. TMI WARNING: I’ve been battling an inexplicable and variably unpleasant bout of candida overgrowth (aka yeast infection or thrush) in my mouth and throat for a number of weeks now, and every so often it’s had me wiped out. I’m hopeful that it’s on the mend thanks to some good meds (yes, my doctor is taking good care of me), and on the upside I’ve discovered the pleasure of oil pulling. I like it!

But now, I’m just so pleased to present this guest post by Ralph Woodcock, a fellow denizen of the District of Wonders and member of The Sanctuary community. Thank you, Ralph, for sharing your story.


In recent years mindfulness has gained an increasing high profile and has been suggested as a possible solution for a wide range of problems and issues from depression, anxiety, and stress reduction, to the treatment of people with chronic pain. Type “mindfulness” into the search box on Google and it will bring up a choice of 39,900,000 hits to search through. A search through a database of academic journals will also give you a bewildering choice of research articles to download and evaluate. Mindfulness seems to have strayed far from its roots in Buddhist philosophy and practice and is now advocated as a means of stress reduction in the boardrooms of some of the planet’s biggest companies such as Apple and Proctor & Gamble.




According to a Wikipedia article on the subject, the teaching of mindfulness to employees of companies such as these leads to “better employee well-being, lower levels of frustration, and an improved overall work environment. Additionally, mindful employees have lower levels of absenteeism, burnout and other negative results”. Other institutions from the US Armed Forces, schools and prisons. Mindfulness is so popular now that it is even beginning to attract criticism: only last week I read an article whose title went something like “Is Mindfulness Harmful?”

My own involvement with mindfulness practice goes back many years to the seventies, and has always for me been linked with the the practice of Buddhism. In my mid teens I came across the autobiography of a Western Buddhist teacher Sangharakshita, “The Thousand Petalled Lotus: The Indian Journey of an English Buddhist (published in 1976) when I just 17. The book made such a deep impression on me that as soon as I had finished it I started to read it again. It seemed amazing to me that someone in the twentieth century could live what seemed to be an authentic spiritual life.

I immediately set out to read as many books on meditation and Buddhism as I could find in my local book shops and library. With these as my only guide I embarked on the practice of meditation. It was rather doomed to fail, I think, but at least my interest was kindled for the first time, and it would only wait for a few more years until it could take a few more steps forward.




Years later I discovered that Sangharakshita founded what was then called the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, and at about the time I was reading his autobiography he was in the process of establishing a Buddhist retreat centre in a small Norfolk (UK) village just 20 miles from where I was living. If I had known this, I cannot help wondering how different my life might have been. Would it have been any better or worse? Would I have been happier? I often wonder. It is a sign of how much the world has changed that if it had been today I could simply have checked his Twitter feed or Facebook page and found out exactly where he was and what he was doing.

My next encounter with mindfulness meditation happened in the early 1990’s when I came across a flyer for an open day at my local Buddhist Centre. I have always been something of a workaholic by nature, and I think I was beginning to feel the adverse effects of this. I went to the open day and soon was sitting cross-legged on a cushion, listening for the first time to someone teaching me how to practice the mindfulness of breathing. That short 20 minute “taster” session was a great revelation to me. Afterwards I felt relaxed and somehow “lighter” in mood. Following the meditation we all went downstairs for tea and a slice of vegan carrot cake, which I found delicious, and we were invited to watch a short video on the basic of Buddhism.

The video started by going over what are known as The Four Noble Truths. I listened to the first of them, “all existence is suffering or unsatisfactory”, and immediately thought I’ll buy that one, no further sales pitch needed! For the next few years I became a frequent visitor to the Centre and learned the two basic meditation techniques they taught there: the mindfulness of breathing and the Metta Bharvna.

The years moved on to 2004, and I was probably more stressed and worn out than ever, possibly made worse by simply growing older and having less energy. On an impulse I decided to book a weekend meditation retreat being held at the old windmill on the North Norfolk coast. For three days I had nothing to do but sit in meditation, take part in group discussion, relax, and generally sit or walk in the warm sunny June weather. On the last day I found the thought of returning to the outside world again disturbing, even though I had only been there for a short period of time. As a reaction to this I think I decided that the whole business was nonsense – I decided that once I got home I was going to forget meditation, check my work email account, unpack my briefcase, and get on with some real work. It didn’t happen like like however, and when I got back life didn’t seem the same. I even ended up taking the following couple of days off work to do nothing but meditate and walk on the beach.




More retreats followed in a variety of different places, and  I began studying Buddhist Psychotherapy. Despite all this, I began to feel the pressure of life more and more, and I lost faith in mindfulness as I would have thought that it would have been a protective factor against these stresses. Miracles, it seems, meditation could not bring about, and I now think things may have been much worse had I not had that grounding in mindfulness.

I have always been an avid watcher and reader of science fiction, and probably at about the same time I read The Thousand Petaled Lotus, I read Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five. This iconic work is famous for following events with the phrase “So it Goes”. These three simple words contain both emotion and the dismissal of emotion – they imply for me a sense of world weariness that is both all-accepting and all-dismissing of everything. They could be rewritten as something along the lines of  “bad things happen; its awful but that’s OK, we deal with it because we have to.” I often remember this phrase when difficult circumstances arise.

I believe that the world around us offers us metaphors for our mental states. I am writing this in the shade of two apple trees that I planted myself about ten years ago. I knew little about gardening at the time so I planted them too close together, and they are in quite a windy spot, but they still produce a generous supply of fruit every year even though their situation is far from ideal. They are now in full blossom. They have made it through another long, hard winter, and so have I. So it goes.




Thank you again, Ralph. Reading your personal journey with mindfulness through the decades has been illuminating and refreshingly “real”. I am increasingly interested in the principles of mindfulness, and right now I am reading Radical Acceptance – perhaps we shall talk more, Ralph. That would be lovely.

I hope visitors to The Sanctuary will feel welcome to share their experiences and curiousities (Is that a word? It is now!) with meditation and mindfulness in the comments, or at our facebook page or private group.

If you would like to post a guest blog at The Sanctuary, or to contact me directly for any reason, please email me at this address. I would love to see future guest blogs range around a broad variety of topics, and representing a diverse range of experiences and “voices” across race, gender, sexuality, nationality, age, and ability. As Tony says, “no one is alone in the District of Wonders” – whoever and wherever you are, The Sanctuary is a place of friendship for you.

Until next week – all the best to you all.

Robyn Bradshaw

The Sanctuary possible thanks to Tony C. Smith and the District of Wonders. You can support the District of Wonders through Patreon, or simply tell a friend about our podcasts and community.