Chemainus’ Bernice Ramsdin-Firth must have been one of the first in line when the creative credentials were handed out.
And she’s not known for just one specific talent. Ramsdin-Firth is an accomplished painter, sculptor, writer and gardener.
Oh, yes, and she’s 85 years old.
Known as Bunny by her friends and others who aren’t aware of her real name, Ramsdin-Firth is also a dedicated naturalist who enjoys watching the birds and other critters that come and go around her immaculate yard with partner Gordon. The property features many trees, a creek and a pond and was recently featured on the revived Chemainus Garden Tour.
“I have always had a great interest in nature as well and belong to the Cowichan Valley Naturalists,” Ramsdin-Firth noted.
She was brought up in an arts-oriented family. Her father was an artist and her mother loved the stage. Those qualities and more were absorbed by Ramsdin-Firth, who majored in art and English literature at Douglas College in Surrey.
During her many years as a painter and sculptor, she always found joy from writing – especially stories and poems for young people. Ramsdin-Firth wrote a musical play based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Tinderbox and The Naming of Charley Salmon, a more serious play.
She has also painted murals in Maple Ridge and Duncan.
Writing became more predominant after Ramsdin-Firth moved to Vancouver Island in 1998 and joined the Chemainus Writers in 2001. She collaborated on a book of short stories, the Oyster Speaks, and wrote, illustrated and published four novels in The Other Side of Magic series under her signature Haresend Publishing name.
Children’s books followed.
As an artist and member of Rainforest Arts, she recently sold a large sculpture at the gallery.
Her latest novel, recently published, is for young adults, Once Upon a Future: Earth. It’s about two young teens, 300 years in the future, who face with courage and friendship a devastated world, dealing with hunger, thirst, cannibalism and other terrifying situations.
“This could be the future for our descendants if we do nothing about climate change so I wrote the book because of my fear many people don’t seem to get that this could happen if we carry on as we are,” Ramsdin-Firth pointed out. “But it is also an adventure story and contains some unusual characters who face the same hardships with ingenuity and, often, humour.”
In her story, “there are small pockets of humanity around,” she indicated. “Oceans are very acidic so it’s hard to find food. The weather is very erratic, lots of huge storms – not like we have now.”
Ramsdin-Firth puts a bit of a local spin on it with the young couple in the story encountering the eruption of Mount Baker that causes a huge tsunami.
She rattles off the sequence of events in the story without pausing for a moment to think about it. Her mind has such a capacity for details you get an idea how the writing must just naturally flow from there.
Ramsdin-Firth has five daughters between the ages of 54 and 67 and some of them provide unbiased feedback on her writing. There’s also a ready-made audience among her 16 grandchildren.
Members of the Chemainus Writers have been a great source of camaraderie for Ramsdin-Firth.
“These are all very good writers. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be in this group.”
Ramsdin-Firth is living proof you can do anything at any age.
“I didn’t start writing books until I was well into my 70s,” she pointed out.
Ramsdin-Firth considers Bill Richardson, a radio broadcaster and author whom she met in Maple Ridge, as an inspiration.
From her foray into writing and particularly The Other Side of Magic series, “I never intended for it to turn into four books,” she conceded. “It just kept going and going.”
Once Upon A Future: Earth covers nearly 200 pages and, yes, there is another novel in this series to come because it states “to be continued (spring 2020)” at the end.
It just might turn into another four books. With Ramsdin-Firth being just like the Energizer Bunny, you wouldn’t expect anything less.
(Editor’s note – Ramsdin-Firth’s partner Gordon just passed away. Our condolences).