Monday, September 06, 2021

"River for My Sidewalk" by Gilean Douglas

Between our float cabin and the granite wall there's a protected pool. In summer, the water is warmed by the reflect sun, making a natural heated swimming pool. 

The water can reach 24ºC (76ºF). It's a perfect spot to sit in a floating chair to read. I usually read on my Kindle, but in this watery environment I choose print backs. I find a good selection of at our local used bookstores, thrift shops and the Powell River Kiwanis Club book sales.

A memorable read from this summer was River for My Sidewalk (Sono Nis Press, 1984) a memoir by Gilean Douglas. It was first printed by J.M. Dent and Sons in 1953 under the male pseudonym Grant Madison. They thought customers wouldn't believe a woman could live alone in the wilderness and wouldn't buy the book. Gilean continued as Grant Madison until 1983, with the majority of her works first printed under that pseudonym.

Gilean was born in 1990 in Toronto into a privileged life. That changed dramatically when she was orphaned at sixteen. She married several times, traveled extensively and worked as a photo-journalist. In 1939 she moved to British Columbia and began living off-the-grid in remote cabins. There she continued working as a journalist, author and poet.

I got a signed book.
River for My Sidewalk is about her years living in an old miner's cabin on the Teal River near Duncan on Vancouver Island. She gardened, fished and gathered foods from the land. Few visitors were invited to stay, and her elevated hand pulley river crossing kept most fishermen and hunters away. She shared her land and life with animals including Grampa Cougar.

Gilean was an adventurer willing to give up an easy life to experience the wonders of nature. The tales of her experiences cut across time. There are still places where you can live a simple life, if you are willing. 

In 1947 her cabin burned. She married again and moved to Cortes Island, up the coast from my Powell River home. After her marriage ended, she remained on her 138 acre waterfront off-the-grid homestead and lived there until her passing in 1993.

Uganda Passage near the location of Gilean's Cortes homestead.

Do you like to look for old and unique books in used book and thrift stores? What are some of your best discoveries? -- Margy


  1. My kindle is supposedly waterproof. I've been very brave this summer and floated around the pool, reading. There's a part of me that would like to be an adventurer like Gilean Douglas. Although I could do without all the marriages. :) Thank you for reviewing! I can't believe you found a signed copy/1

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for reviewing.

  3. I'm all for harvesting used books!
    Nice review!

  4. How fortunate to have your own naturally warmed swimming hole outside your door! I bike or drive 4 miles to swim in an estuary that is also warmer than the open water. I have a waterproof bag for my ancient Kindle, but I only trust it for bathtub or on the beach reading.

    At used bookstores, I like finding beautiful hardcover editions of books that have gone to paperback or out of print and at a fraction of the price. I sell some of my books to those stores too to make room in my library. However, I do try to buy new books from my favorite authors since they don't get royalties from used books and I want them to be able to keep writing.

  5. Great that you are enjoying time in the water with a good book. Thanks for sharing - it sounds like a book I would really enjoy.


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy