Overleaf Nature Books & Memoirs

Welcome to Overleaf Memoirs Service (Victoria, BC) --

Sign up for help with LIFE WRITING and autobiography

Learn how (and why) to produce your memoirs whether for yourself, friends and colleagues
 or for family and descendants. Explore how you fit into the shared history of us all. Learn how to organize materials and documents, shape your narrative, find printers or e-publishers.
Barbara Julian, Memoirs Coach, has degrees in History and Library/Information Science, and long experience as a free-lance writer
20.00 per hour, first consultation free
(Getting To Know You)
For more information email sbarbarajulian@hotmail.com or phone
                          250 592 9340                        


Barbara Julian is a free-lance writer, playwright and book reviewer, former librarian and present book-addict. She has independently published several books and booklets (issued by NINSHU PRESS, see list below) collaborated with others on anthologies, and worked with seniors on Memoirs Projects at several local retirement residences.

"You have helped create a family keep-sake ... it's been a pleasure working with you." (Ian H., 2015)
"Memoir writing has been an interesting experience." (Mary Nemes, Victoria, 2014)
"Recording our history is important, helps relate the past to the present -- to understand Canada's unique position in history." (Helen, Parkwood Place -- teacher)
"Thank you for doing memoirs with Sandringham residents." (Colleen and Gert, May 2015)

Completed May, 2015: Overleaf has helped produce Betty Hearn's memoir: Betty Out and About, which is rich in information about Victoria going back to the 1930's and the War years, the burgeoning 1960's arts scene in Vancouver, retirement on a Gulf Island and more ...


Journal of a year of walking Bowker Creek through all the seasons and three municipalities (Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay), looking at landscape and wildlife, history and ecology. Bowker formed during receding Ice Ages and has flowed through a wild, then a rural, now an urban environment. It fills many needs for its admirers and habitu├ęs, who visit both above ground and underground (about 60% of its length being in tunnels). The author tells how she overcomes fear of "the underworld" by venturing into Bowker's tunnels, and continues to learn from the birds and beasts above-ground. Follow on www.twitter.com/BowkerWalking
From Walking Bowker:
The creek, streamlined with manufactured siding like the new bike lanes, has lost its wet hinterlands, its companion marsh plants, its debris-filtering root-y soil, its fallen-branch dams, its salmon pools, its pauses and meanders. Yet it carries on flowing through debased landscape and public debate, hosting marginal creatures: deer, Canada geese (both of which native animals are subject to Management Strategies, meaning culls), and gulls who have moved into town because, apparently, their offshore nesting islets are raided by eagles whose own inland forest habitats have been destroyed by logging and development.
            First we disturb, then we kill. I encounter the hunted and unwanted ones -- animals and trees alike – finding sanctuary all along Bowker, colluding with her in sustaining illicit nature in the city. They get in despite chain-link fences. These are erected near schools: no kids wanted. The kids are indoors. Only the green men still play.
        The creek herself plays too: I catch her dancing under the trees, swishing and surging as she glories in a rainfall or flashing smiles upwards to a beaming sky on a bright spring morning. Light plays on the water, raccoons play hide and seek in the undergrowth and squirrels romp energetically in their leafy jungle-gym, running and hopping more than they need to. The crows too hop and swoop, in noisy groups, while songbirds sing more tunefully and play mating games. Nature is all play, one way or another – the play of light on water and stone, the improvisational rippling of grass, the hide and seek of shadow and nightfall, the dressing up of trees in spring and the undressing in fall, the whipping up of objects by wind, dispersing seeds and nesting tools by chance and whim. I play too with Bowker: rock-hopping, pebble throwing … I indulge in camera play, word play, tall tale-telling about the folks I imagine peopling Bowker’s past, playing here before any of us alive today were born.
            Aware that I walk in a diminished landscape I still find it beautiful. One adjusts the vision instinctively to focus on pleasure wherever it can be found: in the beauty of this particular leaf, on the shape of that stone, the way the light falls just there, the unexpected shape of these pinecones, the exquisite miniaturization in this forest of moss and lichen when viewed at ground level, each tiny moss sprig mirroring the shape of the cedar that once made a forest here … We all become miniaturists as dense urbanization overtakes us, like the prisoner who finds hope in a single bloom visible for a week outside the bars …
            In some ways it is forgotten and wasted, but in fact one of the attractions of Bowker today is that, the Browning Park and Oak Bay park stretches aside, it is not much frequented. There is in little use of the creek at this moment in its history. Much above ground is so unkempt and overgrown in summer months that people cannot get down to the water – a fortunate protection for the creek. It keeps it safe from too much attention, setting it aside for the birds, insects, plant life. It is a swarming swamp supporting a multitude of un-prized and un-glamorous life-forms – the tough sort that can survive the pesticide and oil-laden run-off from gardens and roads that makes its way into the water.

... Beyond the Brush-Up, the park which Oak Bay created around Bowker (1978-81) continues its serpentine way across the road. A magnificent London plane tree is the centrepiece in the next section, presiding over a little lake, duck-filled, made by two weirs. Here again is the comfort of benches, old oaks and new trees many planted in remembrance of locals who not long ago sat just here, fed ducks just there, and loved creek-walking as I do now.
            After Bowker flows out of this park it again descends to the underworld, passing under the Oak Bay fire and police stations and a baseball diamond behind that. This was an open ravine a hundred years ago, and the government of the day considered it a good place for the local garbage dump. Eventually the landfill site was filled in and paved over.
            When Bowker next emerges it feels, to the visitor, renewed. Perhaps it is anticipating its final destination, not far off now, its final triumphant merging with the sea: fresh water to salt, thin stream to fast-moving straits flow into the mighty Earth-girdling ocean.
            There is hope in the souls of Bowker-lovers that this place might be the best candidate for eventual day-lighting. Unlike most of the paved-over sections, Fireman’s Park is public not private property. With a strong will and a budget dedicated to the job, this parking lot and park could be re-purposed, and Bowker given back his space.
            Beyond the baseball diamond and across a quiet little residential road, are community gardens along each side of the creek. A path leads through them, and sliding down the creek’s banks I find a bit of remnant forest that has managed to survive between the vegetable plots and private properties on each side of Bowker’s last lap to the sea. Here the creek is cheerful and eager, moving fast between jagged rocks along the banks and down the centre of the watercourse. I hop from one to another and sit for a spell in the middle to enjoy this Arcadia under big shade trees, as the stream curves around the boulders. Songbirds and crows give voice, and undergrowth is dense on each side. Even in the driest month of August, the water is knee-deep and the banks slippery. The gardens of private houses above on each side are hidden, and can briefly be forgotten. I imagine myself, just for a moment, in the peaceful, sun-dappled Forest of Arden.
            How strange to think that thousands of years ago this glacial and newly post-glacial coastal area supported long-gone giant mammals such as caribou, bison, ground sloths and the fierce shortface bear. The oceans were thick with whales, chasing the salmon that had quickly colonized the systems of rivers left by retreating glaciers. The first post-glacial landscape of open pine woodland was gradually replaced by the dense Douglas fir forest, which (perhaps along with human predation) forced the large mammals eastward. Now, the biggest mammal on southern Vancouver Island is the black-tailed deer, and she only hangs on precariously in this recently urbanized environment.
            From here the only way to proceed is down the creek bed itself, the banks being fenced or walled on each side along the bottoms of the gardens above. Bowker here forms the back property line of houses fronting on a different street on each side. So down the creek bed I walk. Feet get wet, the rocks are slippery, care must be taken. On the right, a low cement wall has been built along the foot of one of the gardens; this provides the last narrow avenue it is possible to walk along, even in summer with the water level is at its lowest. Ahead is the last underpass where Bowker suffers just one more street to cross over it. The effort of following the creek to its final liberation is amply rewarded: a large, sleek furbearer darts from the underbrush ahead and up the bank into a bordering garden. I get only a glimpse, but it looks larger than the slim dark streak that hunted the ducklings a mile or two upstream. Maybe that was a mink, for this is a plump, fast-moving, brown-ish speckled otter – a joy to see after my sad musings on the long-lost sloths and bison.  This place, tree shaded and hidden from traffic and people, still feels like another world, a childhood world of adventure and exploring. (But where are the actual children? School’s out today, what do they do with their free time? Do they truly live indoors now, suffering nature deficit disorder?)

..... On its other side is another fence along the place where the Shelbourne Apartments management cut down the deers’ cover. Getting over is difficult but getting back will be worse; the ground is lower on the inner, creek side of the fence, a stool or a human shoulder is needed for hoisted and landing. I acquire these.

            I slip down the slope several feet to the water’s edge, passing cat litter on the way which someone has tossed over the fence, the kind that clumps like concrete and which the soil cannot absorb. It is slippery. I approach the hard square concrete of the tunnel, which is high enough to stand upright in. Getting along the creek side where the water is sufficiently shallow for wading is tricky though as there are only prickly blackberry branches to hang on to. I inch along and enter the tunnel. The temperature drops and the light grows dim prefacing the complete blackness that closes in after only a few yards. But first there is enough with which to see a long panel of graffiti -- bright reds and yellows slashed across the concrete wall.

            I advance slowly and nervously, for some reason stepping sideways, and glancing back often to the mouth of the cave -- as if I fearing someone could close it behind me -- glancing back for reassurance to the sweet lighted wet winter world outside. The footing on the cold floor of this gallery is slippery and a current pulls at my ankles, though the water is only about six inches deep. I hear a rush of loud echoing watery noise, and laid over that the growl of traffic on the road above me. The cold square box of a tunnel curves with the street, and ahead I see pinpricks of light that show a metal ladder on the cement wall below it. Above will be a manhole cover in the street; city engineers must use it whenever needful for their work (but not often for when I check the spot later, back in the upper world, I find the metal glued tight to its surrounding), but to me this thin light just discernible beyond me in the ceiling looks like the light that God brought forth over the darkness that lay upon the waters at the beginning of the world -- Biblical in significance, portentous with hope in the engulfing blackness.

            I did not linger. I turned back soon to the opening through which I had entered and to which Bowker herself was confidently rushing, swirling purposefully around my boots and over this weird concrete floor, breaking free of captivity. Exiting the tunnel, she tumbled energetically onto the more natural bed ahead (though this too was engineered with retaining rocks and lengths of industrial-strength plastic which I could see half-embedded in the surrounding earth). Daylight flashed on the water ahead of me, cold but welcoming.

            Litter -- coffee cups, bottles, plastic bags, a discarded USB stick in the shape of a skateboard – also decorate the creek bed here. But the trees glittered with recent rain, a wintry afternoon light softly receded while traffic swished past, a few robins hopped about, a vee of Canada geese honked above, heading south for warmth … the upper world never looked so beautiful.

  Look for Walking Bowker at local shops, or order through overleaf2011@hotmail.com 
$10.00, 60 pages, illustrated, 2014.

NINSHU PRESS presents books on nature, eco-spirituality and mind-body subjects: 

Walking Bowker: Befriending an Urban Creek, by Barbara Julian, pbk, ill., 64 pages, 10.00

Childhood Pastorale: Children, Nature, and the Preservation of Landscape, by Barbara Julian. pbk, ill., 14.95

Tales and Trails: Living With Urban Deer, a short collection of stories of relationships with local deer, various authors, chapbook, ill.,20 pages, 2014, 3.95 

Poultry Pets In the Garden: Raising Backyard Chickens, an informative step-by-step handbook, 32 pages, pbk, ill., 5.95

Meadows, Mounds and Meanders: Sacred Sites of Victoria, an anthology of nature prose and poetry by eight local authors, pbk, ill., 9.95

Anima Mundi: Seeking God the Mother, a creative visualization and eco-spirituality workbook for private or workshop use, coilbound, ill., 9.95