Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Twyla Tharp: "Wake up and dance, y'all."

They say we haven't had this much snow in mid-November for 70 years. 12 centimetres or more. Very very pretty for those of us who don't have to wrestle our way to work. The leaves are still on the trees and I'd just blown up my bike tires for further riding. I think not. It's sunny today, blindingly bright.
I know, you've seen this view many times before. But not in NOVEMBER.
The view, through the screen, from my bedroom window. Very David Milne, no?

Yesterday's excitement - a trip with John to Staples, which is having their annual chair sale, to buy myself A NEW DESK CHAIR. A first - mine so far have all been second-hand; the one I'm sitting in now has a variety of cushions to support my back. The new one is snazzy with built-in lumbar support. Half price. Delivered tomorrow. I spend a great deal of my life sitting here, so might as well do so in style and comfort.

The salesman who sold me the chair had, without doubt, the worst haircut I have ever seen. It was pressed straight at the sides, like wide sideburns but growing straight down and sticking out, off the face, and short with weird bits at the back. Indescribable - well, like a large leprechaun with a very bad barber. I kept wondering what he saw when he looked in the mirror: Ooo, lookin' good today you handsome devil! But maybe he was thinking the same of me. And he did know a lot about desk chairs.

On Sunday, to an event put on by the King's University Nonfiction program - the only degree in the country specifically for nonfiction, yay! It was about publishing nonfiction, and it was, as always, depressing - about how hard it is to find an agent or a publisher, and even when you do, to get a book out into the world and - cue laughter here - to make money. However. We do it anyway, because we are lunatics of the best sort.

Speaking of lunatics, finished 78-year old Twyla Tharp's new book Keep It Moving. She urges us to dance. Good news: my friend Gina and I are again going to produce a dance event at the Black Swan. Thursday Feb. 6 2020. Great music, no partners needed, just move that bod!

Here are a few inspirational quotes:
Age is not the enemy. Stagnation is the enemy. Complacency is the enemy. Stasis is the enemy. Attempting to maintain the status quo, smoothing our skin, and keeping our tummies trim become distractions that obscure a larger truth. Attempting to freeze your life in time at any point is totally destructive to the prospect of a life lived well and fully.

To move is the provenance of all living human beings. And by my definition, to move is to dance. With the time you’ve got, choose to make your life bigger … I say this with love: shut up and dance … You might want to start now.

If you look at your body as a job, then gathering the discipline to stay strong and limber isn’t a chore. Fitness expands our social, emotional, and intellectual well-being. When we make time for physical activity … we are not stealing from other parts of our lives. We are making it possible to live each day productively.

Wake up and dance, y’all. As you best see fit. Dancing is a beautiful way to say thank you to your body and to join the human race. Welcome to the tribe.

Hope to see you Feb. 6, if not before. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

the joys of Michel de Montaigne

My dear Chris has chastised me for not posting daily, as he does. He thinks I should rename this site "Born to Blog Occasionally." I wrote back to say I didn't think there was anything in the Official Blog Rulebook that insists we bloggers must post every day. I love that he does, that I can follow the daily activities of one of my oldest and dearest friends who lives on the other side of the country. But for me, the need to write begins to bubble inside until I can't bear it, I have to let it out; this takes time. And writing each post also takes time, often up to two hours I don't have in the day.

So - "Born to Blog when the need arises and I can make time and there's something to tell you." How about that?

What I have to say today is not much, however. It's our first real autumn/winter day - cold and bleak, a grey-white sky, nothing moving, no desire to go anywhere. The time for hibernation has set in; suddenly I'm more tired, want to eat chocolate and carbs and go lie down. Did not ride to the market this morning. Will not go to the Y. Will however go to the library, if I can read a bit more of the massive tome I need to return, The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, who, in the Screech translation, is a most entertaining companion, thoughtful, erudite - quotes in Latin every few lines and many examples from his life experience and from classical literature - as he examines thumbs, prayer, cannibals, and many other disparate subjects with wit and profound insight into human behaviour, especially his own.
On Solitude:

We should have wives, children, property, and, above all, good health … if we can: but we should not become so attached to them that our happiness depends on them. We should set aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop, keeping it entirely free and establishing there our true liberty, our principal solitude and asylum. Within it our normal conversation should be of ourselves, with ourselves, so privy that no commerce or communication with the outside world should find a place there; there we should talk and laugh as though we had no wife, no children, no possessions, no followers, no menservants, so that when the occasion arises that we must lose them it should not be a new experience to do without them. We have a soul able to turn in on herself; she can keep herself company; she has the wherewithal to attack; to defend; to receive and to give. Let us not fear that in such a solitude as that we shall be crouching in painful idleness.

1267 pages like this; it would take many weeks to do it justice. But I need to take him back - the book is overwhelming and too thick to hold comfortably, I'll come back to it - and get the one that's waiting for me, Twyla Tharp's new Keep it moving: lessons for the rest of your life. I loved her The creative habit and quote it in class, that routine is the friend of the creative person. Make a work behaviour automatic and you won't have to push yourself to do it. Routine helps us stop crouching in painful idleness.

Have never been able to follow it myself, but it's great advice.

Much to do besides reading books, papers, emails, websites, FB, the New Yorker etc. - cooking a ratatouille, practicing the piano, maybe though probably not watching a good movie - Temple Grandin - that's on this afternoon on one of the movie networks, laundry, work. Gretchen came to watch Bill Maher last night and brought a freshly-baked apple pie - an inspiration. I had an idea for a new writing project at 4 a.m., which is when many of my ideas appear. Contemplated going out to see Pain and Glory, one of several great movies out now, but won't. The day, which at this moment, 1 p.m., feels long and empty, will vanish.

As they do.

Spent yesterday morning listening to Sandy and Nora's Podcast, one of Anna's favourite political podcasts; she sent a link to a specific discussion about the recent library controversy, on which Anna and I have opposite viewpoints. I listened and responded at length and in detail about how much I dislike and am offended by these two judgemental, closed-minded, foul-mouthed, misinformed, censorious, sanctimonious young women and what they have, so self-righteously and with such frightening self-confidence, to say. How can my daughter ... no, stop. No point.

Go on, Beth, tell us what you really feel.

On the other hand, had two emails this morning from my new BFF in Edmonton, a poet and spiritual counsellor who was one of my mother's good friends and who has now, amazingly, through the internet, become one of mine. We write long emails about our families, our writing work, the past. A great and unexpected gift.

So that's it for today - nothing much from this long silent solitary day in the grey. But here I am, not crouching in idleness but here, in my room at the back of the shop, writing to you.

We have lived quite enough for others: let us live at least this tail-end of life for ourselves. Let us bring our thoughts and reflections back to ourselves and our own well-being.

Amen, Michel.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Barkis is willin'

Snow! Not much, but there it is. The trees are still covered with leaves, which are now covered with snow. Very pretty out there. And there goes a black squirrel clutching a peanut - where did he get that?

A thrill this morning - yesterday I wrote to the information officer at Bletchley Park, asking for information on Mum's 2 or 3 years there, and immediately he wrote back, telling me what he knew. I'm sending more questions. Busy day today - teaching at U of T, a CNFC meeting on Zoom, a class here tonight. But right now, have to go find the snow shovels and salt and fill the bird feeder. I can hear the blue jay complaining and see the flash of cardinal red, waiting. Sorry, guys.

Finished a marvellous book, Unquiet, by Linn Ullman, daughter of Liv and of Ingmar Bergman.  It's annoying that she calls it a novel when it's obviously, in every line, a memoir of her upbringing with two fascinating eccentric parents. However, she writes, "In order to write about real people — parents, children, lovers, friends, enemies, brothers, uncles, or the occasional passerby — it is necessary to make them fictional. I believe this is the only way of breathing life into them. To remember is to look around, again and again, equally astonished every time."

An interesting notion - I guess especially if your parents are as famous as hers'.

And good TV - the end of "The Durrells in Corfu," delicious, and "His Dark Materials" on HBO - as in the Harry Potter films, nice try, but the books are SO MUCH BETTER!

More transcribing of my parents' letters yesterday. I knew, but was reminded, that they had a pet name for my father's penis: Barkis, as in the David Copperfield character looking for a wife who repeatedly says, "Barkis is willin'." And I gather our family Barkis always was. There's a letter written to the boat bringing my mother, brother and me back from England to Halifax after months of separation, when Dad gives Mum instructions on how to lie to customs officials - an effective lesson he taught me too, later - and tells her how much she is missed. At the end of the letter, he writes, "An old friend wanted to add a few lines." What follows is written in messy, child-like handwriting:
I too have missed you terribly and am quivering with excited anticipation of our renewed connection.

There are repeated allusions to their sex life. When he was looking for a new bed for them, she wrote, "Try it out well first—if it creaks, don’t buy! (Bearing in mind our favourite winter sport next to skiing)…. It makes me happy that despite years of unhappiness together, this part of their lives always worked, until the end.

I know, not all of you are acquainted with your parents' affectionate name for your father's penis. My family believed in sharing, for better and for worse. Perhaps if I pretend the two of them are fictional characters, it'll be easier to do this work.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Jojo Rabbit

It's starting, the closing down of that big room outside the door, where we can walk and sit and play from May to November. Today, mild but windy, wet, and grey turning to sun. But snow predicted. Got out boots and winter coats today. I think I'm ready.

Thursday was Hallowe'en; after the class at U of T I met Ken to see a movie, both of us gladly escaping candy, costumes, and merriment. We saw Jojo Rabbit, which in fact brought us a great deal of merriment. Any film that can turn Hitler into a figure of hilarious ridicule wins in my books. We both had a really good time seeing this thoughtful comedy with a dark underbelly and wonderful child actors. Then we had dinner and gossiped, and by the time I got home, the madness was nearly over. This 'hood goes crazy; the people up the street have giant inflated pumpkins and spiders and neon skulls and a fog machine and an electronic witch who cackles and a vulture in the trees ... I just can't get over that we're trying to cut back on plastic, but Hallowe'en has now become a competition to see how much crappy plastic shit you can shovel into your front yard. My neighbour scattered about a collection of severed bloody legs I'm hoping will vanish soon.

Ooo. As Ken says, I know I'm getting old and crabby. Me too. But it was a success across town - maybe the lousy weather meant people gave even more to the brave kids who were out.
Friday, crabbier than ever - first the electricians in to fix something relatively minor which took all morning and $300, then the minute they left the plumber, ditto, $275, while I was online with a CNFC conference call. Didn't get outside all day. Gretchen came to watch Bill Maher; she was bearing her divine chocolate chip cookies, and now I have to beg her not to bake, because these are lethal. Bill Maher was crabby too.

Anna's partner Thomas's sister is temporarily homeless, so Anna is providing shelter for her and her many children into the near future. Again, my daughter leaves me mute with admiration. It's called putting your time and effort and love where your mouth is. Her speciality.

Here, today's laugh:

 The gardenia Wayson gave me usually shuts down when it comes inside - but no, it's blooming. He's around, keeping an eye on things.
 The last bouquet of the year - Japanese maples in their glory
And yet life stirs in those tiny tendrils. I've forgotten what this plant is. But it's happy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

So True Sunday Nov. 24

Will post this a few more times before the day. We've got a fabulous lineup for you, folks — hope to see you in the audience. Be there or be square.