News from Greece!   1 comment

It has been an unacceptably long time since I have blogged, and it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say! I’ve been moving house, travelling and busy with book things, among other diversions. Right now I’m sitting in my room in Heraklion on the north coast of the isle of Crete as we come to the end of a 2 1/2 week pilgrimage. We have been travelling with psychologist and writer Ed Tick, and his wife and fellow psychologist, Kate Dahlstedt. My last roommate, Barbara – a professional astrologer, just left this morning for her home near Boston.

Sailing into Heraklion port at 6:00 a.m.

Sailing into Heraklion port at 6:00 a.m.

My friend from LA, Grace will be moving in with me for one night and then I head for Athens by ferry and the flight back to Calgary. What a trip this has been. Ed Tick leads healing/educational trips to both Viet Nam and Greece. We knew that “A” Greek trip was coming up for the last two years but didn’t know where we would be going. In the meantime I dreamt I was in ancient Greece and with two other people, all teenagers at the time; we were lovingly washing and grooming a black bull with gold balls on the ends of his horns. A few weeks after that, Ed announced that our next trip would be Crete, for whom the bull is a symbol! This is the bull I dreamed, without the gold balls on the ends of his horns.

Minoan Bull in the museum in Heraklion

Minoan Bull in the museum in Heraklion

This was just one of many magical things that have happened before, and during the trip. I think everyone experienced at least some degree of healing, catharsis, new insight, and/or transformation. The spine of the trip was to visit a couple of Asclepion healing sanctuaries and then follow near the end of our journey with a night of “dream healing.” Dreams have been considered of importance in many healing traditions, including conventional psychiatry, ie. Jungian and Freudian practices. The healer Asclepios was a powerful figure of ancient Greece who actually lived, according to Homer. His daughters were Hygiea – from which we get the word, hygiene and Panacea, who name is self-explanatory.

There are Asclepion ruins all over Greece, Turkey and even some Italy. The Asclepion in Epidavros is being restored as close to the original as possible. There are literally thousands of testimonials recorded of healings including some very specific notes from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius – the Romans adopted the practice from the Greeks. Hippocrates was an apprentice to, and eventually a priest of Asclepios. The snake on the staff in medicine comes from Asclepios, not Hippocrates.

Asclepios and me from an earlier trip, in Epidavros.

Asclepios and me from an earlier trip, in Epidavros.

Symbols of Poseidon and Asclepios in the Asclepion in Lendas on Crete

Symbols of Poseidon and Asclepios in the Asclepion in Lendas on Crete

Enough history. Whether it is symbolic or real makes no difference. When pilgrims travel together with a powerful intention for knowledge and healing, remarkable things happen. During the dream incubation, several people shared common elements in their dreams without knowing it until we shared our experiences at the end. A sceptical, atheist (kick-ass) trial lawyer from Detroit had a couple of mystical things happen that really made her question her beliefs, in a good way. She was excited and inspired by what she discovered. A wounded young veteran was transformed by this trip and will probably end up being a speaker for Soldier’s Heart, ( Ed and Kate’s charity for healing combat trauma. My friend Grace, who is a practising psychiatrist also has healing dreams for her patients and friends.

Outside of that, we all loved Crete. Wonderful, warm people, fantastic food and the best tasting honey in the world – you can taste the flowers in it! In the photo below, there were Minoan ruins here, a carpet of wildflowers and you could hear nothing but the buzzing of happy bees. Just beautiful.

Minoan ruins were nearby

Millions of wildflowers and bees.

One little story from WWII; a group of British soldiers were bivouacked in Epidavros at the end of the war. The Sergeant Major told his CO that they needed to move because the place was haunted. ALL the men had had the same dream – of a large bearded man in a robe with a staff that had a snake wrapped around it! They were describing Asclepios.

That’s enough for now. Please note: I’m in the process of moving everything to a new site – It is under construction and once I get moved, I will get that up and running.

Posted May 7, 2014 by windwrangler in Home

Ontario II – Jack and Bonfire head to the big screen…   1 comment

First two weeks of May were a whirlwind of Ontario book signings, talks and LOTS of riding. 🙂 (I’ve never made one of those smiley things before!) I had shipped my bike to Mississauga after agonizing about riding it out from Black Diamond, back and forth, back and forth until we had a heavy snowfall warning in southern Alberta which made the decision for me. After being wonderfully hosted in Mississauga by a friend’s sister, (Syrian people feed you middle eastern delights until you almost explode! No thanks, is not recognized.) I took off on my bike for Tillsonburg to begin with.

basking by Lake Ontario

basking by Lake Ontario

The weather was brilliantly sunny and about 25 degrees. Perfect. I took one of the two monster freeways to start with, the 403 west, but then peeled off at Brantford south onto Hwy 24 and then west on Highway 3 to Tillsonburg. Hwy 3 was a delight; nice poky road through farm country and forest and no traffic. I was on my way to my amazing friend, Robin Barker-James’s place; an old tobacco farm that he has transformed into a treasured historical park with trenches, field hospital, medieval fort and museum/theatre. Robin won the Order of Canada and Queen’s Jubilee medal for his high school history teaching. Where was he when I was in school?!! and my history teachers were “dead from the arse up,” to use a rude but useful Irish expression. THEY were bored and so were we. I stayed at Robin’s for a couple of nights and talked history and then set off for book events in Waterloo, Guelph and Ottawa.

Robin Barker-James and Ceilidh outside his fort

Robin Barker-James and Ceilidh outside his fort

trench 2WWI trench recreation on the Barker-James farm[/caption]

In the quaint city of Guelph I spoke at the Guelph Rotary to about 80 people. A man in the audience asked if I’d mind doing a reading from the book so I obliged with a few pages. After a delicious Italian lunch they bought every book I had with me. Of course native son, John McCrae is near and dear to the people of Guelph. The next day I gave a talk and signed books at McCrae House Museum, the modest little granite bungalow where he was born. They also own the beautiful, adjoining yard which has a monument to McCrae and In Flanders Fields.

the Beast outside McCrae House

the Beast outside McCrae House

signing Bonfire for a customer in McCrae House

signing Bonfire for a customer in McCrae House

the Monument at McCrae House and part of the gardens

the Monument at McCrae House and part of the gardens

Then I rode to Ottawa and stayed with my friend, MGen (ret’d) Ivan Fenton and his wife, Sue. Ivan is a producing partner with me and John Kerr of Crowsnest Films on a documentary about the Girouard family, For Country, which we hope to complete soon. New developments with the Girouards will make it a complete story that began in 2008, shortly after CWO/RSM Bob Girouard’s death in Afghanistan. It’s an inspiring story about a fascinating family of soldiers and most importantly, about healing.

So now I’m at another friend’s apartment in Toronto which I have use of as a base for the next year, if I need it, which is awesome. I am here to meet with two broadcasters and pitch the movie adaptation, Bonfire, from the book, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. As we come to the hundredth anniversary of WWI with all its events, I KNOW this story would be loved on film and probably re-run for decades to come.

On June 12th I head back down to Tillsonburg to Robin’s place to watch him in action with a large group as we goes over the finer details of the War of 1812. He has busloads of student and cadets come through to learn about our history and he brings it to life like no one else. After that, I head up toward Algonquin Park and then make my way back across Canada to Black Diamond. Hopefully the sun will come out.

Waterloo book signing

Waterloo book signing

Fort Henry in Kingston beside the St. Lawrence River

Fort Henry in Kingston beside the St. Lawrence River

On the way to my friend’s place here in Toronto I got totally messed up trying to take his exit off the 401 and of course it was absolutely bucketing down. The classic 401 NIGHTMARE. First I missed his exit going east, turned around and then missed it again going west. So I got the hell off the !@#$% 401 and phoned him. He directed me in on nice streets with names and I finally made it about 2 hours after leaving Mississauga where my bike had been stored! Oh, a lot of that time was like oh, 45 or 50 minutes in first gear on the “freeway” not only creeping in first gear but riding the clutch as well! So I arrived late, dripping rainwater at my friend’s apartment. But all was made well by a warm welcome, beer and a delicious moose meat dinner. Important note: my new BMW jacket actually IS waterproof 🙂 unlike my old Alpinestars which has done its time.

Stay tuned for notes from the road…

Posted June 9, 2013 by windwrangler in Home

Spring? news   2 comments

Here we are on April 7th with freezing drizzle, ice pellets, annoyed and half-frozen migratory birds, and the usual crazy southwestern Alberta spring weather. I did get out on my bike for a couple of burns last week and the week before but no hope right now. I’m still recovering from last week anyway, 2 funerals – my friend Garfield, and my 20 year old Andalusian mare, (I’d had her since she was three) so I’m hibernating nicely with good books and videos for awhile.

April what?! The view from my back steps. Waaa.

April what?! The view from my back steps. Waaa.

This morning I watched two videos with Drs Rudy Tanzi and Deepak Chopra from the Super Brain series. Inspiring stuff. We have more power over our own lives than most of us really REALIZE. It’s all about being mindful and paying attention to our bodies; breath, feelings and thoughts…without judgement, criticism or analysis. Being self-aware would have been considered a waste of time when I was a kid, even a conceit. Thinking about it now though, the most unhappy, emotionally crippled people I know have little or no self-awareness or insight.

The doctors suggested an exercise; imagining or remembering events that have given you pleasure in the past and those memories actually release healthy chemicals, enzymes, endorphins, etc. in the brain. I started doing that and after the first things I recalled, which were about my love for certain people in my life; family and friends, then I remembered stuff like singing in a choir two summers ago, inside Chartres Cathedral in France, and sitting on a beach without human company, for several hours in 1981, surrounded by sea lions in the Galapagos. My next thought was, What an amazing life I’ve had and continue to have!
Gratitude Gratitude Gratitude

I’ve been honoured to be entrusted with the finer details of Garfield’s WWII stories. He held them inside for over sixty years. After we went to Belgium and Holland in 2010, he was noticeably “lighter.” Upon hearing about my healing journey back to Viet Nam in 2009 with 8 VN veterans, my family doctor said he had a WWII veteran patient who was fixated on his experiences during the war and wanted to talk to him about them. As a busy family physician he just couldn’t accommodate him. I said, “I don’t suppose you could tell me who he is could you?” But of course he couldn’t for confidentiality reasons. I’m pretty sure now it was Garfield. We became friends at just the right time.

Looking for Toby's grave in the Adegem Canadian Military Cemetery  in Belgium.

Looking for Toby’s grave in the Adegem Canadian Military Cemetery in Belgium.

A stoic Garfield sheds a cathartic tear after finding the grave of his brother after 66 years.

A stoic Garfield sheds a cathartic tear after finding the grave of his brother after 66 years.

Diez in Hays, Alberta. Her last summer - 2012 She would have been 20 this May.

Diez in Hay, Alberta. Her last summer – 2012 She would have been 20 this May.

So, it’s just that kind of Sunday. I have started the Bonfire screenplay and will get back to it when my inspiration for writing returns. I never stay down for long!

Posted April 7, 2013 by windwrangler in Home

Bonfire – a reading, news and reviews   Leave a comment

reading poster

Please come out to the Bonfire Book Event at the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The Canadian Military Tribute Truck will be there, too.
Cdn Trib Truck

I will also be at Chapters/Signal Hill Friday, Feb. 1 from 1 – 5 for a signing. Please come by and say hello!

Now that Christmas is over I’m turning my attention to schools and libraries. I had a great stroke of luck in that and old friend of mine has written two Lesson Plans for teachers to go with the book. He is Order of Canada and Queen’s Jubilee medal winning history teacher, Robin Barker-James! So I’m excited about that. The two plans are comprehensive; one for Literacy/English and the other for History.

Bonfire is still selling in stores and I’m signing up with a distributor within the next week.

Three parts of new reviews:
“Your epilogue produced tears in me as you wrote straight from the heart. Something to really be proud of. We are soldiers and artists of Remembrance.” – Robin Barker-James, award winning Ontario history teacher

“Enjoyed thoroughly. Page turner. Just loved the narrative being told from the perspective of the horse. And shining through the narrative were the greatest virtues that living beings possess; friendship, loyalty, devotion. No Canadian can read this without being inspired. Thanks for writing a superlative book about a great Canadian.” – Charles Adler, radio and television journalist.

“You have created a beautiful book – a keeper, and the amount of research and love you have put into this project just oozes from it! I know so much more about our ancestor and teacher, John McCrae, than ever before.Thank you and congratulations!” – Ed Tick, psychologist, founder of Soldier’s Heart and author, War and the Soul (2005), Warrior’s Journey Home, (coming soon).

Posted January 31, 2013 by windwrangler in Home

On the eve of 2013…we’re still here!!   2 comments

Well we didn’t blow up, and who knows why the Mayan calendar ended? Maybe the maker simply ran out of space. Maybe it starts again from its beginning. I personally think it signals the beginning of a new era. It feels like that to me.
Critters 3

What a year this has been! Incredibly great things, and unbelievably challenging and difficult things, at the same freakin’ time. I’ve been having great dreams about elephants this year, and Ganesh is one of my favourite deities. I’ll take that as a sign that obstacles are being removed as is Ganesh’s wont.

I am grateful for all my “teachers” in whatever form they came into my life. I learned a lot about boundaries this year. Coming from a childhood where boundaries were blurred and often violated, this has been a long slog but I think I finally get it. This year I learned what I’m responsible for, and what I have no control over, where I end and others begin, what I “own” and what I don’t, and even what is true and what it not. It’s not that these are new ideas to me, but what we know and what we really KNOW, are two different things. My most oft picked tarot card all year was The Wheel, which to me is about following my destiny, and just as important, knowing that all others around me are, too. (I firmly believe I was born to tell this story of John McCrae and Bonfire.) As for some of the people around me, sometimes it’s hard to watch the choices people make but I really “got” that this is not only out of my hands, but none of my business!

Every January 1st I pick a few oracles for the year. January 1st, 2012, they could not have been more significant or appropriate. One of them was the Gateway rune. You are standing in a gateway on the threshold of a new life, but you cannot pass through if you’re going to drag along any old shit; judgement and blame, resentment, anger, etc. That has been one of my biggest challenges this year, to truly dump that stuff once and for all. The one tarot card I picked for the 2012 new year was Justice, which is all about cause and effect, legal matters, karma. Hoo boy, was that one timely.


In the summer I walked over grounds in England where the subject of my book, John McCrae walked and rode his horse, Bonfire. It was powerful to walk the windswept Salisbury Plain where the Canadian soldiers, and especially their horses, suffered such hardship in the worst winter in memory. It was beautiful, but there was no mistaking what it must have been like in the freezing winds and lashing rains from October to February of 1914/1915, without any shelter most of that time. I felt it was a perfect wrapping up of my tracking John McCrae’s footsteps before finishing the book.

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

I got lots of great bike riding in in 2012; no long ones this year but some nice day trips and some great riding down in L.A. with my buddy and new rider, Grace. She called me today actually, to tell me she’d ridden for 2 and a half hours, all by herself. She kept thinking she should get home but just couldn’t stop! Hmmm, sounds familiar. One of the best rides around here was down to visit a friend on his farm near Hays in southeastern Alberta. Just a beautiful day; badlands, canola fields, coulees, great sweeping curves along the rivers.

Ride to Hays, Alberta

Ride to Hays, Alberta

All in all, despite the difficulties, it was just an amazing and unforgettable year…in a good way. Our farm is still for sale. I think the delay in selling it was meant to be, too. If I’d had to move suddenly, in the middle of getting the book finished and launched, it would have been a disaster.

At this moment I’m the “go to” person for Soldier’s Heart while the bosses, Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt are in Viet Nam for 3 weeks. I have to field their phone calls and answer emails. It’s exciting to me that people of their stature trust me enough to put me in this position! I am honoured.

My next project is to begin a screenplay from Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman, and find a team that wants to see this story debut on May 3rd, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the poem, In Flanders Fields. Go big or go home, eh?

So…this is my end of the year/New Year’s blog. Last year I spoke of surrounding myself with like-minded people and I’ve made important strides with that. Yes, I’ve burned a couple of bridges this year, but that was not accidental. I go forward in peace and with the best of intentions. Gateway into 2013, here I come!

I wish you all a fantastic, joyful and inspired 2013!


Posted December 30, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Jack and Bonfire hit the road…   Leave a comment


I’m starting to plan a road trip with the Bonfire book for May, anniversary of In Flanders Fields time. Aside from the fact that it is actually the time at which the poem was written, about the 3rd of May 1915, I’d like to pique awareness and interest at least at one other time during the year. In Canada we focus everything on Remembrance Day in November, and then thoughts about our soldiers and veterans slip away for a whole year. Unless of course you have serving or fallen soldiers in the family.

My goal is to have this book in every school library and public library in Canada. I haven’t been turned down yet, in this area anyway. Generally librarians look at it for a couple of seconds and say, “Yes, we’d love one.” It’s a no brainer. Now I just have to decide, do I go by motorcycle or car? Guess I’ll have to get one of those little trailers for the bike!

One of my favourite reviews so far…
Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman, by Susan Raby-Dunne, captured my heart and taught me so much about the true story of John McCrae’s journey through WWI. If you are an animal lover you will adore this book! As a high school principal and educator, I am always seeking resources that will engage students and encourage them to read. This heartfelt story will resonate with students while teaching them the true meaning of the poem, In Flanders Fields, and remind them of the importance of honouring all heroes (two and four-legged!) on Remembrance Day and all days thereafter. I will remember Colonel John McCrae’s bravery, compassion and devotion to his cause whenever I wear the poppy. I will remember Bonfire and Bonneau for their unwavering loyalty to their master and their gallantry as animal soldiers.” – Leah Kingston, Principal, Ecole Secondaire Highwood High School, High River, Alberta.

UPCOMING BOOK EVENT – December 15, 11 – 4 Shelf Life Books, Calgary

Please come out to Shelf Life Books in Calgary on 4th street and 13th Avenue for a “Meet the Authors,” event. I will be there with writer/photographer Larry Semchuk and his beautiful book about wild horses of southern Alberta, Running Free.

Posted November 30, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

New Reviews and McCrae Effects…   Leave a comment

Since I met Terry Fallis earlier this month, and he told me his grandad served with John McCrae in WWI, plus he loaned me McCrae’s actual spur for the launch and other Bonfire book events, I have met two more people whose grandfathers served with John McCrae. What in the world is going on?!

Captain Lesley Clinton Fallis was a doctor and served at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital(McGill) with the CAMC beginning in June 1916. Neighbour Nancy Murray’s grandad, Gunner Harold Wheelock Borbridge joined right at the beginning with the 1st Brigade CFA (Canadian Field Artillery) and today I met Jennifer Smyth in High River, quite the historian herself, and her grandfather was also with the same artillery brigade. This is too weird for words. If and when I find an explanation, I’ll let you all know.

New Review…

“I read your book. It is precious, absolutely precious… Everyone in the world needs to know that John McCrae and his horse, Bonfire are Canadians, war heroes, and, John McCrae is the author of In Flanders Fields, which everyone quotes so liberally. Your book is superb. Your gentle yet revealing perspective is brilliant, and I received quite a little education too. Thanks Susan…I applaud you.”
– Katie Trafford, businesswoman and owner of Equiproducts, Calgary, Alberta

Yikes. Hope my hat size doesn’t increase!

Bonfire says, “Oh, Pshawww. Don’t get a swell head!”

Bonfire Book Event, Tuesday, November 20th, 7:00 p.m. Owl’s Nest Books

Come out to the Bonfire reading and book signing this Tuesday night at Owl’s Nest Books at 7:00 pm. in the Britannia Shopping Centre at Elbow Drive and 50th Avenue SW, Calgary. There will be wine and snacks, too!

Posted November 17, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

11/11/2012 Remembrance Day   Leave a comment

Attended a good Remembrance Day ceremony today at our local high school The auditorium was full; lots of veterans, cadets and scouts, several mounties in red serge, a good slide show and meaningful words. The Sgt. at Arms had us pay special appreciation this year to Afghanistan veterans of which there was a surprising number. It has been part of my mission this year to acknowledge the younger veterans and remind my fellow citizens that they are all around us.

I was impressed with the numbers of young people who attended this year. Also the cadets were great; very well drilled.

Left to right – Afghanistan veteran, WWII, a Lion’s Club volunteer, Peacekeeper -Yugoslavia veteran

Someone this morning asked me what I thought about the “white poppy.” I told them I thought it was a bad idea on Remembrance Day for sure, even though I get the intention behind it. I don’t necessarily disagree with that. The problem is, and I’m thinking especially of WWII veterans here, for many of them, their experience in WWII has defined their entire lives. The red poppy also is a defining symbol for most of them, worn in devoted remembrance of friends and loved ones lost. We cannot imagine what they saw, did and lived through. No matter the intention of the white poppy, it is perceived as a hurtful affront to them, and all they suffered and lost. I would say it is a legitimate symbol, but not to wear it on Remembrance Day. That is not the time or place for it. That’s my opinion.

McCrae funeral photo from the Bonfire book. Notice at Bonfire’s head; General Currie 6’5″ and McCrae’s best friend, General Morrison, 5’6″

Let us be worthy of them.

Posted November 11, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Remembrance Week Events for, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman   Leave a comment

Bonfire liked to carry caps and swagger sticks

Book signings in Calgary:
Thursday, November 8 – Chapters/Indigo Signal Hill 6 – 10
Saturday, November 10 – Chapters/Indigo Signal Hill 12 – 4
Friday, November 16 – Chapters Shawnessy 4 – 8
Tuesday, November 20 – Owl’s Nest Books in Britannia 7:00

Also available at:

Posted November 6, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman launch, launched successfully!   Leave a comment

MMWG member, Marika d’Ailly and launch MC, Karen Gimbel

I’m not quite recovered but I still did a book event at beautiful Bluerock Gallery today. The launch at Lougheed House on Friday night was wonderful. A full house, a classy MC – Karen Gimbel, special guests, and robust book sales before and after. After a brief talk by me about the McCrae journey, our teenaged readers from Oilfields High School in Black Diamond began the program by reading a short chapter from the book, followed by Captain Reg McMichael of the PPCLI who gave a powerful and moving talk about his service in Afghanistan and what remembrance means from a “young” veteran’s point of view. I’m trying to create awareness that not all veterans are in their 80s and 90s! No disrespect meant, but veterans are all around us and are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.

CSM Brodeur, Captain McMichael and me

Then he was followed by the men’s vocal ensemble, Il Sono, who performed for the first time a setting of McCrae’s last poem, The Anxious Dead 1917 – music by me, and arranged by Steven Baric.

Il Sono sings McCrae poem, The Anxious Dead

To hear it for the first time was very emotional for me. Gave me goosebumps. A cappella and in four part harmony. After that their bass soloist sang two pieces from the book that John McCrae liked; The Minstrel Boy and Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes.

Attentive guests

Historian, Victor Taboika generously provided two WWI uniforms from outfits that feature in the book; one from the 10th Battalion and one from the 1st Brigade CFA – Canadian Field artillery, as well as a CAMC, Canadian Army Medical Corps cap, and field medical kit.

“Fighting 10th” Btn uniform on left and 1st Bde CFA on right

It was an exciting beginning to the marketing of this book. I really believe that this book will be on bookshelves for a few decades. It is basically the beating heart behind the poem, In Flanders Fields. Monday Morning Writers Group member, Angela Simmons took these pictures and there will be more great photos to follow from photographer, Monique de St.Croix. Monique took the head shot of me on the cover of the book. Stay tuned for more book news!

Bruce Nickel, PPCLI veteran and President of the 3rd CAV, Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit/Ypres that I belong to as a Supporter, and Suk Wong

the author looking chuffed

me with the choir, Il Sono

Posted November 4, 2012 by windwrangler in Home

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