Saturday, October 16, 2021

last night reflections

This is definitely the smallest room in the Sylvia Hotel, but it has everything I need: wifi, bed, window that opens. I've just had dinner downstairs with my dear friend Margaret, who's living a nightmare right now; her beloved husband of many years, afflicted with Alzheimer's, is now in hospital and not understanding why he is there. Many decisions to be made, and she with her own health issues. Luckily their sons live close by and help. She showed me phone video of her granddaughter, who's just learned to walk. "It was worth it, having kids, wasn't it?" I cried, and we both laughed. She and I were pregnant with our first together, lumbering around downtown trying to imagine what it would be like to be a mother, to have an actual child. Not to mention two. 

And yet, we did it, and now they are - sometimes - there for us.

It was pouring so hard today, it was hard to see a few feet in front at times. Shari went for a swim in the heated outdoor pool at the lodge, so I took up the challenge and went too - a few minutes in the pouring rain, in the pool and hot tub. But getting wet both in body and on head was too much wet for me.

We listened to nonfiction readers read on Zoom this morning, and this afternoon went to an in person workshop by kind, warm Darrel McLeod, a Cree teacher and writer from northern Alberta. Again, nothing he said was new to me - in fact, some of the exercises he gave are ones I give my own students - and yet hearing it all from his lips made it new again.

As we left, I was given the envelope with critiques of my memoir from the initial reader and the two finalist judges, which I read to Shari as we sped down the mountain in the downpour. The first reader got it, totally; I love what s/he said. The other two had praise and some legitimate concerns which is why, I guess, it didn't win. 

Also that I'm sure dog sledding in the north, on the frontier, is more exciting than eating cheese in Provence. 

I don't care. It's been a powerful journey for me, here; despite the bad weather of the last few days, I'm so very glad I came. I will be so very glad to walk in my front door and drop my bag and get into my own bed. And for the first time in many days, make my own coffee in the morning. Shari has a special method to make her fabulous coffee. But time for me to make my own. 

One of the most transcendent memories of the trip for me was sitting on Chris's deck in the sun, watching on my computer a video made by Lynn's children to commemorate her and Denis's 50th wedding anniversary. One daughter lives with her family in Mauritius, another in Australia, another in Marseille. One appeared at their door as a surprise with her 3 children, and their son participated in the Zoom call secretly from Heathrow, on his way to join them as well - all of them there on the screen, telling stories. Fifty years. I was there at the start, at the wedding. Hard to imagine we're that old. But we are. 

I don't feel old tonight though, I feel rejuvenated - by trees, air, water, mountains, book talk, and most of all, the joy of friendships begun long ago. 

Thank God I bought waterproof hiking boots and a down vest in Whistler; kept me alive here. Here's upcoming Toronto weather. I am so ready.

Mainly sunny


Mainly sunny

Friday, October 15, 2021

not this time

Dear friends, Yellowknife author Fran Hurcomb's memoir about dog sledding, Breaking Trail, is the winner of the 2021 Whistler Independent Book Award.  She has had an extremely adventurous life in the north; I was freezing just listening to her read last night about breaking trails in minus 30 degree weather. Brava to her.

Thanks to everyone who sent their thoughts and best wishes. Save them for next time. 

It's over, and that's a relief. Of course it's disappointing. But I do not for one minute regret coming, mostly because of the bond I've made with Shari. We've known each other for decades, but this is the first time we realized how very compatible we are, with similar lifestyles, goals, and even grievances; she hates vocal fry and uptalk as much as I do. 

I've visited good friends, I've seen a lot of trees and @#$ mountains, I've met some nice people. I didn't win a prize, but I did, too. 

Fran's dogs
Consolation prize - framed
An avenue this afternoon

So - a few workshops tomorrow that I do not have to participate in, and we're off. I'm in front of the fire in my pjs, with - you guessed it - a glass of wine. Happy camper. Onward.  

winding down, winding up

Pouring today so sticking close to base camp. 

Last night was the reading event for the Whistler awards: the three nonfiction and three fiction finalists meeting for a late lunch and then reading from their work and talking to the audience, two on Zoom and four there. The magnificent ballroom at the Chateau Fairmont was full of book-lovers with another 40 attending on Zoom. I always take these things very seriously, had timed my talk and reading to be under the required ten minutes. I was told afterwards that the fact that I'm funny and good at public speaking was appreciated.

All my books sold out instantly. Mind you, since they're heavy I'd only brought five and could have sold double that, if not more. Hope the audience will do what they said they'd do and buy online. They seemed keen. 

And then home by shuttle in the rain, where Shari had made a salad for supper, and a glass of red wine awaited me by the sort of fire. 

Today we attended a Zoom session about publishing, which would have been interesting if we didn't know anything about this subject, but we do. I went to the Audain Gallery which has a stunning collection of First Nation artefacts - masks, blankets, bentwood boxes - and paintings by Emily Carr and other West Coast artists and, later, photographers. A beautiful gallery, all glass and wood. 

A stunning Tlingit blanket, circa 1870. How could they weave something so delicate and complex that long ago?
A modern wall-sized sculpture by James Hart
An unusually bright Emily Carr. She so rarely uses light colours, as she often painted deep in the woods. 
A modern totem pole made of golf bags
A little park that looks like an Emily Carr painting come to life. 

The award event is in a few hours, followed by a taped cabaret. Tomorrow, my last full day, a few more sessions, and then my friend and I hightail it back to the city. I've realized I'm not crazy about mountains.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Whistler Writers Festival begins

Shari and I are joined at the hip, sisters forever. We had a wonderful time chez elle, spending Tuesday evening watching the first two haunting episodes of Maid. And then, ironically, she had a lot of cleaning to do; friends were coming to stay while she's away. I dusted and she vacuumed. It's a big house. 

Wednesday midday we got the noon ferry to the mainland, drove to her musician daughter's in North Van to pick up a laptop she'd forgotten, then did a U turn and headed to Whistler, in the mountains, and what a spectacular drive that is. Whistler is a sports resort - hiking, skiing, boarding. There's more snow, every day, moving down the mountains, and it's colder than I'd anticipated. In fact, the whole trip has been colder than I'd anticipated. I've been wearing layer upon layer – an undershirt, a thin turtleneck, a t-shirt, a cardigan, a vest. Ridiculous, but necessary. And my ridiculous rain boots. 

But no more, because there's SHOPPING here! Heaven. On sale at The North Face, I bought warm, waterproof hiking boots, long johns for under jeans, and a down vest with a hood. Plus gloves not on sale but terrific. I'm fully equipped for BC, a few days before I leave. 

Shari and I should be hiking, but I'm here to work, and so is she. We're in the perfect place, a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen. She brought enough food for a large crowd, so no restaurants for us, we're eating home-cooked food in front of the fake fire which glows red and make the room cosy. We watched Roadrunner last night, a documentary about Anthony Bourdain — despite the huge successes of his life, a man afflicted with the black dogs of depression and addiction. Not a happy story, but poignant and compelling. 

Today is the start of the event, for me. There's a lunch reception for the finalists to meet each other and the producing team, and then a reading event where we all have ten minutes or so to talk about and read from our books. This makes it a show day, for me. I will attempt to look presentable in the flimsy clothes I brought, with my new vest for warmth, and have at last figured out which very short passage to read. And I have a bottle of French Côtes du Rhône ready for when we get back here in front of the fire. 

Lucky. Blessed. Grateful. A bit chilly, but what's new?

PS I was so busy in transit yesterday, I forgot it was my son Sam's 37th birthday. I know he'll forgive me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

On the way to Whistler

A quick hike in the rain forest this morning while the sun was almost shining - slippery when wet

Can't get enough of this view ...
... from these windows.
On the ferry from Bowen to the mainland
Freezing!! BFFs since 1975, like Chris. She was 23 and I was 24 when we met. And we're just the same now, only waaaaay smarter.