January 18, 2004

Jean's Portrait

Portrait #1 - Jean Ogilvie

When Madeleine left England in her early 20's, determined to launch herself
in a new life, she found herself in a huge and wild country . Eastern
Canada, with its granite landscapes, boreal forest and civil cities was to
be home for the next 30 years. Although I first met her as a fellow
consultant in organization development, it was through a joint love of this
remarkable landscape that we became true friends. Maddy's spiritual self
was deeply nourished by her strong connection to the life and rhythms of
the natural world. She would respond to the site of meteor showers, the
aurora borealis, the sound of a distant wolf howl, a swarm of wild bees
with infectious enthusiasm, absorbing the event as a sacred moment and
cherishing it later over our own home cooking as she shared her
entertaining reflections on the day. With the promise of a glimpse of a
beaver dam, a fox den or a wild orchid, Maddie would hike, ski or snow-shoe
just about anywhere.

This connection to living things naturally translated itself into
gardening, a passion for Madeleine that resonated with her childhood
memories of cultivated landscapes. Favouring green and white gardens
herself, made me and her urban neighbours often the subject of disparaging
remarks over our "lurid" choice of flower colours. Her gardening
enthusiasm was put on hold for most of her time in Philadelphia with her
busy schedule and lack of space, but one of her last acts was to mail order
almost 200 daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs to plant into her new front
garden, barely 40 feet square.

From gardening, we also shared a love for cooking, especially things we'd
grown or were locally harvested, and usually cooked over charcoal.
Inspired by her charming compatriots, the Two Fat Ladies, we created some
famous dishes that have continued to be in demand by those we entertained
with them - smoked lamb chops, and tea-smoked cornish hens for example.


As a fellow consultant, Maddie was unparalleled in her ability to quickly
see into the dynamics of organizations and name what she saw with a
combination of precision and wit that gave clients enormous insight into
their organizations. It was not always easy for clients to hear what she
said - for example "you're management team is behaving like a closed circle
of musk ox" - but it was usually delivered with enough compassion and good
advice for action that it was gratefully received. Working in tandem with
her, also meant signing up for her critical observations as well as
insights. In hours of conversations about what it really means for humans
to develop, and for ourselves as individuals to develop and grow, we
debated models, traded readings, faced our own blindspots and took on our
own commitments for development. It was not always easy to be "seen" by
Madeleine, but it was always worthwhile and I learned more about myself
than I had ever asked for.

Even as a brilliant and successful consultant, Madeleine continued to
hanker after what she believed to be her truer calling - working
therapeutically with individuals at a much deeper level. She herself at a
couple of times in her life had been reached and nourished by gifted
therapists so she had a deep understanding of the profound difference that
could be made in a person's life. She wanted to offer that back.

She struggled profoundly over the decision to return to school at 50 to do
the training required to practice clinical psychology. After what turned
out to be a 6 year struggle, she succeeded and to this day I have kept the
phone message she left me when she learned that she had graduated. It
begins triumphantly " well, you can now kiss the hem of my robe. I am Dr.


Like many eccentric Brits, Maddy had an enormous passion for animals. Over
the years she contributed to countless rescues, of both cats and dogs,
taking them in herself, finding homes for them through friends and reliable
acquaintances. This does not mean that she didn't have preferences and
loyalties to particular breeds - say German Shepherds, and Maine Coon Cats.
She succeeded for example in placing a comical looking American spaniel in
our home over a decade ago, but then proceded to make fun of "my choice" of
a dog for the next decade on the grounds that spaniels are not adequate
dogs, certainly not up to the standard of German Shepherds. One of the
blessings of this whole experience was that Maddie did not have to put her
beloved Emily down. Emily died two days after Madeleine with a similar
disease. And all three cats - the prestigious Maine Coones and the brat
Harold have all found loving and deserving homes, an important fulfillment
of one of her parting wishes.

There is a photo of Madeleine posing as a scarecrow taken in Innisfree in
her early 20's that you will see later upstairs. Her caption for it was
"I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll stand my ground". That she did, and in
so doing was the source of inspiration in many domains for all of us. I
can't say how much I will miss this beloved soul.

Posted by ptomblin at January 18, 2004 02:09 PM