akkalove one year on

Eastern Phoebe

Dear friends and family,

Last year a phoebe had built a nest just outside Akka’s bedroom window. It kept hovering in front of the window – as if in slow motion. The phoebes are back again this spring and their call will always remind me of her. Alfred took this lovely picture.

I didn’t anticipate – even though I was told – that the one year anniversary of Akka’s death would trigger so much sadness. And so much love. And so much gratitude. Akka taught me so very much in her death. I am in awe of her courage, grace, beauty and quiet. Thank you my sister.

akka nang and mam.jpg
Mam “teaching” Akka and Nango in Sri Lanka.

For those of you grieving the loss of your dear friend, I feel deeply for you and I wish you ease. For my family, I know we are all managing in our own way. May our memories and thoughts of Akka gently but surely transform from sadness into joy. May you be well.

I think this will be my last akkalove email. I wanted to let you know of a couple of ways – in Lanark and in Toronto – that Akka is being remembered.

Rock Elm at Barb and Alfred’s

In Lanark

Akka loved Rock Elms – a beautiful tree that for some reason has become quite rare in the region. After she died I wanted to find seedlings to gift to some of you to plant in her honour. It wasn’t so easy. I contacted all the nurseries in Ontario. None grew them. Finally someone, somewhere, suggested I get in touch with Owen Clarkin who happened to be close by in Ottawa. I did a search for him and then discovered that Owen – Tree Educator, Activist, Treebadour – had led a walk at Susie Osler’s the year before and it was one that Akka had raved to me about. I think Owen fueled Akka’s love for this tree. When I told him what I wanted to do, he went and collected seeds which he has now nurtured into 20 or so wee seedlings that are ready to be planted in Akka’s honour. If you would like to do so, please let me know. I will be receiving them on Sunday.



In Toronto

toronto park bench
Bench meditation in High Park, Toronto.


For those of you in the big smoke, a commemorative bench will be installed along the Humber River in Home Smith Park, one of Akka’s favourite walking routes. Here she would walk regularly with Natale and also with Stephan who will help locate the bench. If you would like to contribute, you can send an etransfer to: akkalovebench@gmail.com.

I will make sure to let everyone know when the bench is ready to be sat on!

Thank you, all of you, once again

for your tremendous good will that allowed Akka to live and die at home with dignity, beauty and her inimitable grace. I love that she is constantly remembered by so many of you… through your gardens, a flower, a pretty birdsong, on walks in the woods, by a butterfly…I miss her so much.

Round lobed Hepatica – taken today in Frontenac on one of Akka’s favourite walks

More details on the Rock Elm and the Toronto Park

Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii) is a unique tree in Ontario’s flora

Historically common, it was extensively logged due to possessing famously hard, tough, and strong wood for early industries such as construction of automobiles, ships, and pianos and is now generally uncommon. Now it has become somewhat obscure even to forestry professionals, and is frequently considered somewhat mysterious and hard to find by those interested in trees. A priority of mine has been to rekindle interest and awareness of this valuable and attractive native species, by documenting populations and growing seedlings for distribution.

Rock Elm makes a statuesque and rugged full-sized shade tree with a growth rate and eventual size and age comparable to Sugar Maple. It is characterized by frequently having thickened cork on twigs, similar to that seen on Bur Oak. It has a pleasant yellow autumn colour, frequently more showy than other Ontario Elms. Such traits and its toughness have made it a favourite species of many people such as myself (it’s actually my favourite tree species).

This tree is famously “tough”, not just in wood but perseverance. It is one of the most drought and heat-tolerant of Ontario’s trees. It grows best on rich well-drained soil (think Sugar Maple) but perseveres on dry uplands and in drought summers better than most other trees. The only local conditions which are unsuitable for planting it are seasonally wet or fully wet soils (avoid planting beside wild-growing willows, floodplains, wetlands, etc.) Some individuals are susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease and die prematurely, whereas other individuals appear to be unaffected and continue to live long lives as of 2018.

Home Smith Park runs along the west side of the Humber River between Lambton House Hotel and the Old Mill Inn. This park is considered a historically significant area due to its former use as a trade route by the local Aboriginal Peoples. Home Smith Park is an excellent spot for wildlife viewing with plenty of waterfowl, songbirds and forest critters. It’s also a great spot to view salmon swimming up the Humber River to spawn each fall. Home Smith Park is fully accessible with a paved trail and a number of pleasant picnic areas.