Tuesday, August 3, 2021

having her cake and eating it too

Today I worked on Zoom with a fine student writer, who said, "I won't ask you how you are - I read your blog." It's funny to meet people who know far too much about my life. She said, "I couldn't do it." Reveal herself, as I do. I guess it comes easily to me because - I'm not sure why. Having been an actress? Keeping a diary since I was 9? Maybe earning my living convincing writers to reveal themselves?

I don't teach again all month. A welcome break. 

Not much to reveal today, except that I had a wonderful birthday party. My happy, demonstrative personal chef came over to barbecue ... 

Anna came with the boys, my other daughters Holly and Nicole, my dear best friends Ken and Annie. Sam and I had made and cooked all the food in advance, so it was very relaxed, we just had to heat it all up. Even so, I was exhausted by the end. But very happy.  Hope my guests were too. 

Today, a beautiful day, working on an essay, watering, eating leftover chocolate mousse cake, and taking my first piano lesson in months. He made me play the first, easy movement of the Moonlight Sonata twice. I know it by heart but forget passages, my fingers forget, and then it comes back. Somehow, despite my clumsiness, it feels like a piece of my soul, the best of me, flows through those fingers.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Leos roar on their day

71 years ago my mother gave birth alone at the Polyclinic on West 50th in Manhattan. She laboured without anesthetic and then when she was ready to push they put her to sleep, so it was hours before we met. And then, British peasant that she was, she wanted to breastfeed, to the horror of the other women in the ward and the nurses; in 1950's America, breastfeeding was vulgar, for animals. 

We made it through. Thank you, Mum. I'm sure part of my lifelong good health is due to your cooking good healthy foods through my childhood. Your homemade brown bread, devoured warm with melting butter, your apple pie, your mac and cheese - MMM. 

A blessed quiet day with treats already - the usual cavalcade of good wishes on FB from friends near and far, some very far, another reason it's hard to consider giving up this guilty pleasure. John came by to fix things. The cardinals are at the feeder. Someone left a gorgeous book in the Little Free Library; anything by those great souls Alice and Martin Provensen is a glory. 

I danced. Actor Nicky Guadagni almost every day produces an hour of dance music for her friends; we dance with each other on the Zoom screen. August 1st is her birthday too. She played Macca singing that fabulous rocker, "Birthday." A present from him, too. 

Lynn sent a picture from Provence - our mutual friend Isabel with some light reading. It's thanks to Isabel the book exists; working at L'Arche in 1979, she took time off that summer, provoking the need for a new assistant. Moi. 

Lani sent this marvellous card:

LOL. So true. For my daughter. For myself.

Happy birthday, Nicky. Here's to magnificent Leos everywhere! 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

pre-birthday rant

More from my favourite Blowing Own Horn department: U of T sends anonymous assessment forms to students when the term ends, and then forwards them to the teachers. Mine included this:

What recommendations do you have for improving this course to enrich the learning experience for future students?

None whatsoever. Beth Kaplan is an outstanding instructor who is an expert in her subject matter and is able to communicate it masterfully to the various learning levels of the students.

Suggest more strongly purchase of the tutor's book on writing which I just now obtained and which is very valuable

So kind! Thank you. Especially appreciate the suggestion about the textbook "True to Life." 

Turned on the Olympics by accident the other day and saw the one race I feel remotely connected to, women's rowing, because one of the eight powerful young Canadians is from Cabbagetown. It was thrilling; I was shouting, Go girls go! You can do it! as they pulled ahead and stayed ahead the whole way. Gold! It's surprising how much a gold medal matters at a moment like that, when it really does not. 

I turn 71 tomorrow. I know, impossible to believe in one so young. But something is happening; I am turning into a crabby person. I see things all the time that infuriate me, big things and small things, and I've upped my "crabby complaint letters" game. I've always believed in writing letters of complaint and also of praise. But I fired off 3 last week, one about the constant drag racing at 3 a.m. on the Don Valley Parkway, the racers unimpeded by the slightest attention from police, and two about truly stupid articles in the Star. I'd write a letter to the BC Health agency that awarded people who got the second vaccine a big yellow star, but what's the point? Or to register my disbelief that recently a new store opened in Toronto, a luxury vegan clothing store — for dogs. May I puke politely? 

I find this New Balance ad offensive, do you? The sexualizing of a very young girl, giving her a closed, almost surly face and a provocative off-shoulder shirt - in what way does this ad sell children's running shoes? Especially in our age of #MeToo and Jeffrey Epstein?

I tried to complain to New Balance but can find no way to get through. So I'm complaining to you.

Focussing on these small things is a way of avoiding the big things - the physical and moral disintegration of our planet. I started reading a book highly recommended by Judy: The Industry of Souls, by Martin Booth. The writing is wonderful, but it's about the gulag. I don't think I can bear it.

Change of plans. Tomorrow, 80% chance of thunderstorms, 0% chance on Monday, so my Sunday birthday party with family and a few friends has been deferred a day. I will spend my birthday in blessed solitude. A day to contemplate my over seven decades, try not to be crabby, and maybe actually do some work.

PS In case you're a very young reader who doesn't understand the significance of the yellow star, here's one that was torn off an overcoat and given to my American soldier father after the liberation of Paris from the Nazis. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

fan mail

Proud mama here - I'm watching the young male cardinal who fledged in my garden as he inspects the offerings. The bird feeder is full but he just checked out my spices on the deck, landing with no trepidation a few feet from the kitchen door. He's soft brown streaked with flame, with a bright orange beak - gorgeous.

And more proud mama - for any of you worried about keeping the bee population alive and flourishing, I have 3 words for you: rose of Sharon. I have two big trees, and they're stuffed with bees rolling around or splayed out on those long exposed pistils, coating themselves with pollen in such a languidly sexual way, they almost make me blush. 

So much going on. Still no word on a CT scan, so my health is in limbo, but I'm feeling better. Watched a doc on Chuck Berry and another on Buddy Guy, a brilliant but shy musician finally getting his due. It's interesting that he first found acclaim in Britain in the sixties - the Beatles, Stones, and other Brit bands revered black American music in a way the Americans did not. 

Yesterday, a busy day: I went up the street for a therapeutic massage with Laura, because she's leaving the business. So skilled, those fingers! Then a few blocks west to get my hair cut with Dianne, my first cut with a professional since last January - so skilled, those fingers! And then next door to a restaurant called Noushe to get Persian takeout: chicken-pomegranate stew with saffron rice, sublime. All within a few blocks of home. I love my 'hood.

When I got back, I tried a selfie - slightly retouched, I confess. The magic wand, wiping out a few of those tiny lines. If only we had one in real life. If only my chin were a little smaller, my eyes not so hooded, the lines beside my nose not quite so engraved. But - as Dianne said - enjoy what you have now, because in five years, you'll miss it. Wise words.

In the nice words department, Ruth just wrote, I finished All My Loving, and loved it. So much going on in your young life, and so well depicted in just the right voice. And of course, your rich vocabulary and your imagination at that young age is "awesome", even "gear". 

And Anne wrote,  re my fervent recommendation of Late Migrations a few days ago, "In case you don’t realize what an influencer you are, I put a hold on this book within a day or two of your recommending it.  At that time, there were no other holds. Today there are nine for the ten copies. Good job!!"

OMG, I'm, like, an influencer, just like all those 18-year olds on Instagram and TikTok! The big bucks will soon be rolling in! 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hooray for beautiful Mary Simon our new gg.

I turned on CBC yesterday morning by chance and realized it was the investiture of our new governor-general, so went to my computer to watch as well as listen. It was extraordinary. Mary Simon is an inspiring, beautiful Inuit woman who gave an inspiring, beautiful talk. Imagine, she said among many other things that working to de-stigmatize mental illness will be one of her priorities! She spoke in lyrical English, fluent Inuktitut, and brave French about her childhood in the Arctic; "Canada is an Arctic nation," she said, and went on at length about the crisis of climate change. She spoke about the generous hard unsung work being done by Canadians in communities across the land and specifically thanked frontline health care workers. And of course, most importantly, she spoke about reconciliation with the Indigenous first people of this country. 

Such a warm, welcome presence in our land. Long may she reign!

I was invited out for lunch yesterday - another first after many months - by Ron Hume, a member of the men-only book club who are such vociferous fans of "Loose Woman." Ron, who's in his eighties, was an entrepreneur who once marketed books and had marketing ideas for me; he said the memoir is so good, it should be much more widely known and wants to try to help me get it into book clubs. "A superb writer like you shouldn't waste a minute on marketing, you should be writing," he said, music to my ears, but unfortunately not possible. His ideas are interesting but do involve time and effort and are a long shot, so we'll see if anything works. 

It does make me sad that although the reviews have been uniformly positive, my book, without any media coverage, is relatively unknown. But not sad enough to make me spend hours a day burbling on social media, which is the job. 

At lunch, during which lively Ron, his interesting poet wife Babs, and I consumed a bottle of Pinot Grigio and delicious lobster ravioli, he told me their Covid ritual; at 5 every day for an hour they both have a glass of single malt Scotch and listen to jazz. He curates his favourites for her with the help of Spotify. She has learned to love jazz too though she grew up in Liverpool and is a huge Beatles fan and invited me over to their house to dance. 

Also heard a fascinating CBC interview with James Nestor, author of a book called "Breath," about the importance of breathing through your nose and other facts about breathing which should be self-evident but aren't. 

Today, I've another podcast interview on Zoom. I will be breathing through my nose. 


Yesterday evening a walk in the 'hood with my neighbour Gretchen, our first face to face encounter in many months. I spotted something in the grass: an angel mushroom. Not sure if it grew this way or is a regular mushroom damaged, but it's a magical thing, don't you think?