Spotlight: Dahlianut

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on March 28, 2011

Capturing Dahlianut is a bit like chasing a beautiful red butterfly in the midst of a garden filled with red roses. We can occasionally come close, but most often the butterfly is hiding behind the roses, dancing on their petals, and fluttering just above our heads. Luckily I've known her for several years, so I knew what I was in for when I asked her for an interview. I'd like you to meet this lovely friend of mine.

I didn't ask very many questions. I really didn't need to. Dahlianut knew what I wanted when I said the word Spotlight. And how do you question one who has a language of her very own anyway? Endearing and delightful, that's who she is and most of us already know that. But how did she get to be our lovable Dahlianut? Was she born that way? That's what I wanted to know. I almost had to learn to flit and flutter just to keep up with her and I for sure had to learn a new language. Luckily, I managed somehow and came away with a better understanding of a brilliant wordsmith. Join me now as we read her story. 

(Just so you know, at the end of this article I've added a tiny dictionary, in case you get stuck on a word or two.)


Once upon a time…..2011-03-23/Sharran/6928b3


I grew up in a city burb of Toronto at the foot of the Niagara escarpment on the edge of the fruit belt. Outwardly my childhood wasn’t unusual. I went to school, played sports, studied piano and frolicked around with the neighbourhood kidlings.


I don’t know when I first realized it but I didn’t really believe I was a people. I felt very out of synch with the world and I often thought that this reality was a dream and that one day I would wake up in a world where I would feel more attuned. I was an avid reader and believed in the fascinating world of fairies. For the longest time I thought I was a changeling and that one day I would grow fairy wings and fly home.


When I was allowed, I spent all of my time outside where I felt most comfortable wandering through the fruit orchards and wading up and down the shallow creek that cut through the nearby fields. I often snuck outside at night and EMoo* would find me asleep in the grass in the morning. For the longest time they thought I was sleepwalking. I poured out my soul in journals, and wrote stories and poohums* and songs from the time I could write, usually tucked away in my secret cave which was a pocket behind the cedar trees at the front of our house.


When I was in high school I spent a lot of time on walkabouts which could often last a whole day. Fall was and is my favorite season and one September morning I was walking along an old street admiring the giant chestnut trees when I noticed a red maple which s2011-03-23/Sharran/d40366eemed to have prematurely turned orange for fall. When I got closer to the tree I realized it was covered in monarch butterflies preparing for their fall migration. An old gentleman was standing in the yard also admiring the tree and he began to tell me about butterfly dust and milkweeds and the garden I was standing in which was a nursery that supplied plants to landscapers. Before I knew it I was having tea in his garden and the daylight was lengthening. As I thanked him and took my leave he told me that I was to come back at 7 a.m. the next Saturday morning to start work because he needed someone like me to help. That was how I met Mr. Thomas who was a significant sign post at a cross roads in my life.


I worked weekends and summers with Mr. Thomas. He had little formal education but his thirst for knowledge was addictive and I soon became interested in the ways and lore of many beings and things. When he discovered that I wrote stories and poetry, he shared many of his writings with me. After great debate, I decided to attend a small liberal arts university in another city to study English literature and philosophy but I spent school breaks helping him type and edit his writings for publication. (Note: As far as I know none of Mr. Thomas’ writings were ever published).


I graduated from university in the middle of a recession with no ambition to embark upon a career. A friend was planning to go to Yellowknife, NWT to work and I jumped on a plane and went along for the ride thinking that I would spend the summer there. I spent thirteen years in the Arctic and still think about it every day. 


What a challenge for a city girl moving north of 60! Early adjustments included learning to tell time from a clock because the daylight hours were so different than what I was used to, existing on a diet scarce in fresh produce and the absence of large deciduous trees. Once I got my bearings, though, an incredible world became my playground. I got a job working with the federal government in land use permitting and eventually worked for the territorial government on community development and aboriginal claims. Living out of a suitcase became a lifestyle due to the vast distances between the communities in the NT and NU.


(switching to Dahlianut words)


I was everso engorged by the stark, beautious scapes that I met at every turn and the plentitu2011-03-23/Sharran/4258a1de of both feathered and furred beasts and I tried to learn the ways of all the new beasts I came to know. I learned the ways of the baer, the eagle, the raven, the wolve, the QUACK!, the loon and the whale. Baers taught me how to find food; wolves how to care for kidlings; QUACK!s how to be patient; the loon how to cry til your eyes swoll shut (which is tres fabby for the heart methinks); and the whale how to play.  Tis from this their learnings that I grew into a being that laughs out loud and sings (mi mi mi) cuz none of these beasts speak Englishspeak or any peoplespeak and yet they know of each other better than we and seldom run amuk.


(switching back to mostly English)


When I left the northernmost north, I moved to Vancouver, BC where it rained and rained and rained and rained so much that I had to go on a lot of crossborder driveabouts during the monsoon season so I didn’t molt. BC has very luvly big rocks and the sea, and EMoo moved there so it was an especially happy time of my life. I had my own business then and the flexibility to continue to travel but I so missed four seasons that I decided to move to Cowtown where I hope to continue to play and live happily ever after with my tru luv and the crazy ole cat. About 7 or 8 (maybe 9) years ago I married my best friend and tru luv. Together with the crazy ole cat, we have daily adventures and we all believe that each new dawn brings something exciting to discover and share.



About the Dahlianut Dictionary2011-03-23/Sharran/e2de16


I was a stubborn and willful seedling*. I learned to read and write before I started school and I didn’t have much patience with learning the basics all over again in first grade, especially when school was inside. I was constantly being chastised for squirming and looking out the window. I carried a lot of notes home which said ‘Needs to pay attention’ with an unhappy face stamp. My teacher was amazed one day when I suddenly became engrossed with my Dick and Jane books and writing furiously in my scribbler. ‘A Marked Improvement’ with a happy face stamp went home to EMoo. When we all turned in our scribblers for marking at the end of the term, I was stunned to see I had received an ‘X’ in spelling and reading comprehension on my report card. (Shar, the teacher, GASPS in HORROR). Who even knew there was a grade X? “F” for failure was supposed to be the lowest at the time. But in all fairness to my teacher, yes indeedydo I was making up my own words and changing the stories in my readers according to my whim.


EMoo were mortified and after many very serious discussions behind closed doors with my teacher, I was sat down and told that I must spell exactly the way I was taught, and discuss the stories of Dick and Jane exactly the way they were written, or I would fail school and end up in the poor house. I wasn’t sure what the poor house was but it sounded as scary as poking your eye out (which was a catastrophe lurking around every corner according to EMoo). I began to use the same words and read like everyone else and I asked for a dictionary for my birthday to help me stay out of the poor house.


I read my little Oxford Dictionary from cover to cover and in my poofy opinion it contained a lot more ridiculously erroneous words than I had already discovered in the Dick and J2011-03-23/Sharran/8966c4ane books. Although I had been taught to never write in books, I started carefully writing new words, spellings and meanings in pencil in my little dictionary. That was the beginning of the Dahlianut Dictionary and although now I speak and write conventionally (for the most part, snort), my inside voice is using that dictionary and to this day I remain spelling challenged.


Do you ever forget and utter Dahlianut words when you’re working?


So much so that most of my co-workers no longer comment on it.


What do you do when it’s too cold to play outside?


It is rarely too cold to play outside here. I still do my walkabouts in the time of the cold and the dark, and I do a very good impression of the Micheli2011-03-23/Sharran/7d58cfn man when I’m dressed for it. Winter is a time for reading and writing, planning new beds/redesigns in the garden and food. Methinks food is people's most brilliant invention and I am continually inventing new ways to enjoy it. I also give talks and workshops for the Calgary Horticultural Society.


What is your favorite place to visit?


A new place. I have been fortunate to travel extensively throughout my life and I am thrilled when I go someplace new. It doesn’t have to be exotic. There is so much I still need to see in North America. I am on a mission to visit all the US states and territories and I have a few more to see. I like to travel by car and I am always meandering off the interstate to see whatever is there. My favorite way to see a particular place is by walkabout.


Do you talk to your flowers, the butterflies and birds?


I talk and sing to everything in the garden and they talk and sing back to me. Even in the time of the cold 2011-03-23/Sharran/407e5band the dark when the roar of life in the garden is muted, we are always sharing. Just this past weekend the snapdragons rattled to me that their seeds were ready for harvesting. I am careful to remember not to sing to the bees and wasps though cuz my garden is incredibly beefull and I don’t know what I might be saying. I do hum to them when I’m working near their nests and when I prune the roses.


What do fairies eat?


I am disappointed that I have never met a Fairy but I believe they are very private beings so I am patient. I’m sure that I have seen them out of the corner of my eye on occasion and I hear them singing with the wind in the trees in the time of the cold and the dark. I have a fairy ring that shows up every other year or so and I believe that, even in my urban garden, they are about when the fairy ring is there. I put out fresh honey (from the market), seasonal fruit and homemade bread on the stump in the centre of the fairy ring. I think Fairies like these things as they always disappear. I do not, however, think Fairies like green jello. Once when I was experimenting with the colour consistency of jello (why is it always the EXACT same colour through and through I wonder?) I put out some bright green jello. It didn’t disappear and the Fairies returned a gift I had given them the day before.


...she said, as she disappeared before my very eyes. Not another word did I hear from her, although she did leave behind some very lovely ph2011-03-23/Sharran/9e61c1otographs most of which were lightly covered in a sparkling dust that immediately got all over my keyboard. Thank you so very much, Dahlia, for this glimpse into your life. I thoroughly enjoyed our luvly visit, just as I always enjoy the magical words that flow from your keyboard. 

And thank you all for joining us. Please visit Dahlianut in her cubit, Dahlianut's Dictionary, where you'll no doubt learn to speak her language so you can dance and flutter around Cubits with her.

Join us again next week when we see who Nancy brings to our Spotlight! 

As promised, here are a few translations I thought might help you:

Emoo:  Dahlia's Mom and Dad

poohums:  poems

seedling:  child

Related articles:
interview, spotlight

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher living in western Kentucky. I love writing and art with equal measure, but I also have a passion for nature and plants.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Special critter Ridesredmule Jan 20, 2012 2:59 AM 14
A nut I understand kareoke Apr 7, 2011 2:08 PM 3
Oh, Dahlianut! nap Apr 2, 2011 10:17 AM 70
Well worth the wait! Trish Apr 2, 2011 9:59 AM 1
my goo'ness! Aguane Apr 1, 2011 11:51 AM 5

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