Sunday, October 25, 2020

health report: all clear

So many of you have been emailing and texting in concern about my possible exposure to Covid that I need to post immediately: Holly just tested negative, so we are all negative too. Incredible relief. Sam would have had to quit work for weeks; Anna, to isolate with sick boys, or even more difficult, healthy, bouncy boys, while sick herself. Horrendous.

Whereas for me - well, yes, I'm old(er), a senior, definitely in the AT RISK category. But if I had to isolate, not that much would change in my life, because these days especially, I live in solitude. I'm so drawn into this new book, delving into the past, that I do little else but sit all day - what a privilege! Today I had to force myself to do Jane's Zoom class at 1 and then to have aperitif with Monique at 5 - and later to watch 60 Minutes, gazing in fascination at close-ups of one of the most repulsive faces on earth. 

But otherwise — with what hours I can spare from teaching and editing work, housework, trying to get the memoir out, and of course too much blasted social media — I spend my days now fiddling with letters and paragraphs for the story of my parents and their offspring. My mother working to resettle Jewish refugees after the ship the Exodus landed in Germany in 1947. My father nearly dying of polio in 1951, the miracle of him picking up his fiddle again. Mum writing to Dad, a few months after they'd met in France and spent four heavenly days together in Paris and Brussels, about having to have an abortion - in war-torn Germany. 

At the moment, I'm following their love affair just after the war, back and forth, she in Germany, he in New York - in their letters you see them hesitate, then go for it, then pull back again. There was love and desire, but also fear on both sides. And they express it all through the mail.

There's a remarkable confluence here - me, the chronicler, the memoir writer fascinated by family story, helped by my mother the packrat, who saved every letter, every scrap of paper. How many people can delve deeply into the inner lives of their parents before they were born? That's what I'm able to do, thanks to Mum, and it's remarkable. Because luckily, they were fascinating, complex people, and even better - THEY WERE GOOD WRITERS. The letters are amazing. My problem will be cutting. I'll need help with that. 

In other news - I opened the blinds this morning to see a big skunk strolling along Sackville Street. Oh - and I don't have Covid. Otherwise, onward. 

a marvellous review brings the sun on a chilly grey Sunday

Started a quick scroll through FB this bleak Sunday morning, to find this. Happy and beyond grateful. It's all worth it! I had many doubts about this book because it was turned down by every publisher and agent I sent it to, save one who rejected it in the end. I decided to publish anyway, to clear it from my life and move on. The fulsome praise from readers has filled me with astonishment, wonder, and joy. 

Lynn's Reviews > Loose Woman: my odyssey from lost to found


by 
U 50x66
's review

it was amazing

The Oxford Dictionary gives 10 definitions of the word ‘loose’. Beth’s memoir takes the reader along with her on her odyssey through 8 of those definitions. From her growing up with fabulously glamorous but complex parents from whom she strives to break loose, on to the joys and heartbreaks of her years on the Vancouver stage as a very talented actress tasting the sometimes bitter delights of the sexually liberating loose 70s, and through to her stay in a L’Arche community in France, this fast paced, very funny, and poignant account will stay with the reader for a long time. It is thanks to her contact with the mentally handicapped men at L’Arche ( the most gripping moments in the memoir) that Beth - a self described half-Jewish atheist, will slowly discover a looseness that sets her free. She is particularly good at capturing a moment, a character, and a whole ambience in a few quick phrases. You will never encounter a cheese platter in the same way. Not only a Goodread, a very Excellentread. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2020

a beautiful day, with sadness

Just had to let you know that it's the most stunning day of the year here: 22 degrees feeling like 25 - radiant. The sparrows are splashing in their dish of water on the deck bannister, rainbow drops scattering as they bathe and drink. Awhile ago there was a blue jay at the feeder, then the cardinal family. I'm finishing the ceremonial taking in of the plants, washing geraniums and coleus, taking them to their winter home upstairs. 

Because tonight there'll be a thunderstorm and it's going to feel like 2 degrees, with possibly a tornado further north. The temp is dropping over 20 degrees overnight. Ah, autumn in Canada. The ground is thick with leaves. The burning bush in the garden is glowing yellow and red. 

Yesterday, I went across town to celebrate Thomas's birthday. It probably wasn't a great idea Covid-wise - Ben is now back in school, and though Anna is very careful, the whole family is out and about. But there was no way I'd miss my son-in-law's birthday and Anna's roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by chocolate cake made partly, or at least the crunchy sparkles added, by Eli. And, mostly, to see my boys. I will say again, with complete objectivity, they are the finest boys the world has ever seen. They were throwing themselves, shrieking with laughter, at their dad, and he was carefully tossing them upside down and sliding them to the floor. If that's not what fathers are for, I don't know what is. 

Words are starting to escape me. Earlier today I couldn't remember the word 'bureaucracy.' And now I can't remember the word for the sparkly things on the top of cakes - no, not candles, like tiny smarties. It's pathetic. 

I just Googled: sprinkles. Oh oh. Worrisome. Brain disintegrating?

Very sad news: the other day, a lovely young man I knew from the Y was murdered. Shane Stanford was a calm, kind presence in the gym, smiling, helpful; he was hoping to become general manager. Instead, as he sat in his car on his way home, he was victim of an apparently random gun attack. Horrifying and tragic. Far too many guns and gangs, angry young men with no future.

Speaking of angry men with no future - watched the last US debate last night. May we never have to confront that hideous orange human being again, except as he howls on his way to jail. 

Friends, now that I've opened the last bottle of rosé of 2020 and had a glass, it's time to go for a walk in the sun. 

Your smiles for today: The kids are going to do Hallowe'en with friends. Holly and Eli made his Bart costume themselves, with yellow cardboard, styrofoam, and ingenuity. 

And ... my Macca has a new solo album coming out! 

Happy to end with something cheerful.

PS Now not so cheerful. Anna just called because Holly, who works in the school system, just called her. A co-worker of Holly's, someone she works with in the lunchroom, has just been diagnosed with Covid. Holly's going for a test tomorrow morning. But this means I should isolate at least until Holly's test comes back. She and I were side by side last night, inside, without masks. 

Suddenly scary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

picture ledges save the day

People are saying such nice things about the book, I just might, reluctantly, have to believe them. Debra sent this today: 

God, I loved it, Beth. Wow, can you write. It was a pleasure to dig in with a writer who magically spins her way around a fabulous sentence or paragraph, crafting them so well. And hilarious! I laughed out loud many times. I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends.

Gina wrote, I started reading your book, its wonderful! You’re wonderful. Brave Honest Insightful and Funny. Brava Bella.

And former writing student and friend Pat, whose prose is like poetry:
Finished your book at 5AM this morning .
Had no idea you were so 
Wild and Crazy .
Need I say
Reckless 
In your Youth .

Who knew you weren't always thin ?
Or of your life on the stage (only hinted at before )
Or of your travels ?
But mainly about your amazing time at L'Arche ?
Congrats ! Kudos ! and Mazeltov ! I'm looking forward to the next installment , your next 40 years (be sure to include your Paris Blog )

Thanks to you all. Good thing my friends write beautifully! Not sure about the next 40 years, though, Pat, taking me to 110. 

Pouring and dark this morning, turning into a stunning warm day, the leaves spectacular. A busy day of housework - Dan came to finish the stairs, pictures and explanation to follow. And my dear John had been to Ikea twice to get me picture ledges. Pictures ledges! Found by chance and the answer to my prayers. For years I've had family pix stacked up against a hall wall, intending to find a laborious way to arrange and hang them. And then I discovered pictures ledges! Today John and I put them up.

Heaven: my grandparents, even as small children, my parents and children, others in the family - more to come, they can be rearranged and changed. Here is one of the pictures now on display; visiting my mother in Edmonton in about 1992, my children discovered a party dress and tutu of mine that Mum had kept, and posed. 

Then spent an hour washing plant containers and bringing them in; winterizing is nearly done. Quite a job, just the hardiest, the geraniums and coleus, still to come. No writing work today, except for a pitch to a CBC radio program about the book. Yesterday, I began to dig into my files on my parents and again, had to stop, it was touching too close to home. But that's the job — to touch too close to home. 

To bring the pictures to life.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

"American Utopia," and the brilliant, unforgettable Angela Hewitt

Received two beautiful notes today about the book, one from musician Louise, friend since high school, and one from Shelley, whom I don't know. 

Louise: I love your writing style, fluid and lyrical with a satisfying rhythm. And you can be very funny too! ... Your account of your time at L'Arche made my soul ache. 

Shelley: Having read your blog these last few years, I was looking forward to reading your new book. Absolutely wonderful! There is so much life and joy bouncing off the pages! I especially loved reading about your experiences in France. What a lot of heart goes into your writing. Thank you for what you do!

Thank you both very much. As you know, I can grow profoundly discouraged about this crazy profession or calling or whatever you call something you do all your life that does not provide enough money to live on. And then I'm reminded - oh yes. That's why I do it. 

Two marvellous artistic experiences in the comfort of my home: yesterday on HBO, American Utopia, the musical by David Byrne made into a film by Spike Lee. It was on Broadway in NYC when I was last there and though I wasn't a Talking Heads or Byrne fan particularly I'd heard such great things, I wanted to see it but it was sold out. It's wonderful - the music spectacular, made by musicians, especially percussionists, wearing their instruments on harnesses so they can do choreographed moves while they play - difficult, rhythmic, infectious. Byrne is so good-looking and vigorous at 68 - unfair how some men (and sadly, how few women) get better looking as they age, George Clooney here's looking at you. Byrne is a fascinating performer, and his band is unbeatable. A must-see.

Today, the sublime. One of my students gave me a gift certificate to a Koerner Hall concert as a thank you, and I chose Angela Hewitt playing Bach's Art of the Fugue. It was set for this spring, cancelled, put off until today - and cancelled again. But they sent out a Zoom link. This incredible musician taped an introduction, explaining each of the fugues and the canons, and then, at 3, she walked into an empty concert hall and played the most brilliant concert I've ever heard. What's extraordinary about Hewitt, who's from Ottawa, is the complete lack of ego, of distracting theatrics - no Gould stuff, sitting low or humming or grimacing, she sits straight, her fingers fly, and the music goes straight from Bach's heart to your's. 


Bach always makes me weep, but today - she'd explained that the 14th fugue ends suddenly because Bach died before he'd finished it. Some pianists fill in that gap, but she does not. She plays on and on, the music incredibly complex and layered, we are watching closeups of her slender, powerful hands, seemingly effortless brilliance, and then suddenly she stops in mid-bar and bows her head. It's shocking, a punch in the chest, the sense that this inimitable soul has died, that I burst into sobs, sitting in my kitchen. She played the short piece tacked on by CPE Bach to finish, and then sat, spent, motionless, in a silent, darkening concert hall. Alone in my kitchen, tears streaming, I clapped.

How lucky we are, that artists are creating as fervently as ever and sending their art right into our homes. Today, I loved seeing the closeups of her hands, her face, the music, on Zoom. What I missed was the chance to leap to my feet with hundreds of other people and thank her by shouting "Brava!"

Here, from yesterday's walk -  Brava to Mother Nature too.