Story & images by Bill Hornbostel

It was in a Hilroy notebook where she recorded her country adventures that Patricia Calder began her career as a writer. “When I was a pre-teen, a girlfriend and I would go out in the country – which wasn’t very far – we walked out as far as we could and just went rambling and wrote down very girlish little things in our notebooks.”

Calder’s love of writing and literature led her through a career as an English teacher before she had an opportunity to devote her time to writing.

“I became an English teacher, and for years and years, I wanted to write. I was so jealous because my brother was writing, and I have a slew of uncles who were all writers, and I wanted to be one, but I had to earn a living so I went into teaching. But as soon as I retired – and I retired early – I started writing.”

Calder has since published a novel, Roadblock, and a number of short stories. The novel didn’t come to her immediately, however. “I didn’t know I was writing a novel. I just started writing stories and realized that I was circling around this theme of death. I’d had a brother who died very young and now that I was a parent myself I could not understand how my parents ever got through the loss of a child. So, I started writing a story about a family who had lost a child. I didn’t know how to answer the questions that I had so I just started writing and hoped that my imagination would answer those questions.”

In writing her novel, Calder also explored her love of horses. “There’s a twelve-year-old boy whose sister is killed, and he finds healing through a relationship with a horse. Horses do heal, there are all kinds of stories of prisoners who have been healed. Uncontrollable temper, alcoholism, drug abuse, all kinds of things have been healed through relationships with horses.”

Calder’s love of horses also finds expression through another life-long passion, photography. “When I was quite young, I had a Brownie camera. I would bother everyone in the family and beyond to let me take their pictures.”

Her love of photography and horses began to emerge when she found herself stopping on the roadside to photograph horses. “I wasn’t getting very good pictures. I thought I needed to get in the field with the horses, so why not ask the farmer? I started knocking on doors. And when I got a few pictures of horses, I would carry them around in the trunk of my car, take them up to the door, saying, ‘This is what I have done, may I photograph your horse?’ And I never was turned down.”

And then I would say, ‘Could you chase the horse around for me while I’m photographing?’ Because you take a few pictures of the horse, and then he puts his head down and starts grazing again, and that’s all you get. I wanted action shots, and the farmers would oblige!”

Calder has also combined her loves of writing, photography and horses in her recent book on the wild horses of Sable Island. “The photography and the writing feed off each other.”

In addition to publishing books and having short stories printed in a variety of publications, Calder also has displayed her photographs in exhibitions in Northumberland County and beyond including the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, CLiC Eastern Ontario Photography Show, Cramahe Studio Tour, and Henkle Lavender Festival.

Calder is a member of Spirit of the Hills, the Northumberland Hills Arts Association, for both writing and photography and has served as a member of the executive team for the Northumberland Photography Club.      

For more information, visit Patricia Calder’s Web page, https://patriciacalder.ca/ where her photographs and books may be purchased.

For more information on Spirit of the Hills, you can visit the Web page, https://spiritofthehills.org/.