Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I have an essay ready to go, a refashioned excerpt from the new memoir about the Summer of Love - 1967, fifty years ago, when the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper and I went to Le Hibou coffee house to hear an unknown young folksinger called Joni Mitchell. That summer my family and I travelled to Expo 67, then on to western USA and Vancouver, where I was thrilled to meet my first actual hippies. And then I hitchhiked back across Canada to Toronto's Yorkville, where Canadian potheads congregated.

I am trying to find a place for this 1300-word essay. Sent it to a friend with connections at the Walrus, who was not encouraging, and to Zoomer magazine, aimed at baby boomers like me, who did not respond. Wrote to a friend at the Star who also was not encouraging - it's too long. Sent it to the CBC; they already have a 1967 piece on the go. So in desperation - it's time sensitive - I sent a query to Hazlitt, an on-line magazine.
From: Beth K 
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2017 10:00 AM
To: Hazlitt Editors
Subject: the Summer of Love

Hello, Hazlitt editors:

Fifty years ago this June, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper. The evening I heard it for the first time, at the age of 16, was also the first time I smoked pot. And then the summer of 1967 unrolled - a trip with my family to Expo 67, to Aspen, Colorado where I met my first hippies, to San Francisco where I saw the burgeoning of hippy culture, to Vancouver, and then hitchhiking home via Yorkville in Toronto. The quintessential Summer of Love experience, except without the love, which would come.

I’ve written a humourous 1300 word essay about my journey through that summer and wonder if you would like to see it.

with best wishes,
Beth Kaplan

Hi Beth, 

Thanks for sending this our way but unfortunately it's not a good fit for us. 


Haley doesn't even want to read it in order to reject it?! I confess, I do get discouraged sometimes. My style is not right for literary magazines, that's clear after a bunch of rejections. My friend and student Rita just gave me a valuable critique of the new memoir - she loved it except for the first 50 pages, which need a complete rewrite. And I know she's right, it's just that I don't even want to look at the thing right now.

Sometimes it's easy to say - what's the @#$# point?

However, I do know how to cheer myself up.

Monday, May 29, 2017

John Shields's death in the New York Times

A beautiful day here. Ran into my neighbour Jean-Marc, who had left a New York Times in my mailbox. "The Times is praising Canada again," he said. "They're regularly running articles about how we do things better. Today there's a big article on the front page."

I've just read the big article on the front page of the NYT - by Toronto's own Catherine Porter. It's not often a newspaper makes me cry, but this did - an amazingly long, detailed, very moving article about John Shields, a Victoria man with a terminal illness who decided, legally, to end his own life. The way to go.

Highly recommended. Brava, Catherine Porter, on a gorgeous piece of reporting and writing.

The Death and Life of John Shields - The New York Times

My oldest friend friend Ron came over last night for a visit. We are the same age, only a week or so apart. He's a gay man now single, with three young grandchildren whom he visits regularly in Calgary and a horse who is housed 3/4 of an hour away, whom he rides twice a week and adores. He bought himself a grand piano and is taking lessons from my piano teacher. But he's also still working, still making money. I teased him once that I'm good at people and he's good at money, and that is still true. But we are both, right now, healthy and fit, with healthy children and grandchildren and houses and occupations and hobbies - so much love.

If there is a greater blessing than this, I do not know what it is.

Friday, May 26, 2017

So True next Sunday

Come hear some wonderful stories. A good time guaranteed. Check our website if you're not sure.

The Boy in the Moon

At 7.45 Tuesday night I was sitting calmly in my sweats in the kitchen, working, when the phone rang and my friend Annie said, "Beth, where are you?" Suddenly I remembered - I was to meet them at the new Crow's Theatre, not that far away, at 7.30, to see "Boy in the Moon" at 8. Yikes. I threw on some clothes, ran to get a cab on Gerrard, and actually made it on time! The joys of living downtown.

How glad I am not to have missed one minute - what an extraordinary non-fiction play. Adapted from the book by the same name, written by Ian Brown about his severely handicapped son Walker, the play features three actors as Brown, his wife Johanna, and their daughter. They speak to us, they have scenes with each other, and Walker looms over it all as a circle of light. Deeply moving and beautifully done. I, of course, wept. Thanks for not giving up on me, Annie.

Yesterday was biblical - record-breaking rain, all day long. I sat in my office and watched water pouring, not safely through the downspout, but from the roof straight down onto the second-floor deck. The downspout is broken and can't be repaired because there's a bird's nest inside it. I haven't gone close to check, but the winged comings and goings - and squawks - are unmistakeable. Even in the storm, mama kept flying in with supplies. So - I'll have to wait until the babies have flown the coop before repairs.

But there's lots more wildlife to occupy me. A lonely raccoon wants to live on the second-floor deck and has been chased away several times. There are mice in the kitchen cupboards, ignoring traps set by John. Worst of all, though, I was sitting in the kitchen working with a student when I saw movement behind her - bugs, ants with wings, coming out of holes in a decorative pillar at the top of the basement stairs. Horror. I covered the holes, sprayed in Raid and called the termite guy. Yes. Termites. Again. He and his team are coming in a few weeks with their new powerful poison that, he assures me, is harmless for humans and devastating to wood-eating bugs.

The world is too much with me. At least, the animal and insect kingdom. I told the termite guy it was time to sell this wreck of a house and move to a condo, and he told me about a condo job he just did, $400,000 worth of anti-termite work.


My former student, now friend and editor Chris Cameron, has just published his memoir, "Doctor Bartolo's Umbrella," about his career as an opera singer, much of it written for class. Bravo, Chris - it's a lovely book, well-written, funny, poignant. He came to speak to my U of T class on Tuesday and will come to Ryerson in a few weeks. I thank him for that, and for the very nice mention in the book's acknowledgements of me and the Thursday home writing class, nine of whom were here last night to celebrate him, and then to read their own magnificent stories that one day will be in their own books. In fact, Chris just emailed, What a great class last night. Everyone works to such a high standard and all the pieces were rock solid and enjoyable. I got the impression that nearly everyone has a book inside them, whether they know it or not.

Wednesday morning was the English conversation group potluck with the immigrant women of Regent's Park, to break bread together before Ramadan starts. A huge feast - many spicy dishes involving chick peas. One young woman didn't remove her niqab, the only one who doesn't in the room full of women, and to eat, had to lift up the black veil to slip the fork underneath. I don't understand, but it doesn't bother me any more. I like the women a lot, and I think they are enjoying the chance to speak English.

The good people of Montana have elected a man who assaulted a reporter for asking questions. The papers focus on the power struggle handshake between Trump and Macron. Young girls blown up in Manchester. The world grows more and more frighteningly surreal. Makes me want to hunker down and hide. Just me and the raccoons, the sparrows, the mice, and the - ugh - termites.

Monday, May 22, 2017

"I am Heath Ledger"

My garden helpers Dan and Alex came today; Dan has a torn tendon and can mostly just prune and consult, so Alex and I spent 2 1/2 hours weeding, fertilizing, moving stuff around, planting. It's only begun, there's a ton more to do, but at least it's started. And now my body aches.

Yesterday afternoon, heaven - cooking while listening to CBC's Tapestry, and then Eleanor Wachtel interviewing Helen Macdonald, author of "H is for Hawk," such a glorious writer she makes me want to give up. I cooked roast chicken with roast vegetables, ratatouille, red cabbage with apples, and leek and potato soup. Should keep me going for a few days.

Tonight, Wayson came for dinner to help me plough through some of this grub; we sat on the deck enjoying the smell of lilac, and then watched "I am Heath Ledger," a documentary about the beautiful  young actor who died of an accidental overdose at 28. I knew he was amazing but had no idea just how talented - a filmmaker, musician, producer and incredibly talented actor with adoring family and friends and so much going for him - it's just too sad. I remembered an expression I used to love: to burn with a hard, gemlike flame. This incandescent man did. Very glad to have seen the film.

Last night, two TV treats - "Call the Midwife," which as usual had me sobbing, just the BEST television drama, going to the heart of life. And then a doc about Freud, fascinating. Can't beat TV like that. Watching the news, though, never - can't bear to see that travesty of a man sucking up to the Saudis and now to Netanyahu. Makes me sick.

Two people have now read this draft of my memoir and liked it, though of course they're friends and biased; Carol my housemate says she loved it, and Chris my dear friend in Vancouver enjoyed it also. He had a few critical comments which I will take seriously but not many. It's not "H is for Hawk" but it exists, it has something to say, perhaps before long it can make its way into the world. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

turning five

So, yesterday was Eli's fifth birthday party, and yes, the expected multitudes did appear: 18 adults and 19 children, almost all boys, under the age of 10. Luckily the sun was out and they rampaged in the backyard, though a few went inside and wreaked havoc with the toys in Eli's room. All the boys needed was some water guns, a lot of water, and some dirt to make mud. Happiness is. Little Ben kept getting so wet, he needed to be changed three times. After hours of mud, it was time for hot dogs and chicken drumsticks. And then Glamma slipped away, before the orgy of cake and presents. A good time, it's safe to say, was had by all.
New bike.
Watermelon with cousin Dakota - like Eli's older twin
 washing the car
 the female end of the party - colouring the boys' hair
filling the water guns. Lord of the Flies.
more mud

I have to say, I don't know anyone else who could pull this off. How did Anna get to be so relaxed? She has been a people person since birth, never enough friends in her room. I realize her father is a theatre producer and her mother is also a producer of sorts - my reading series, the Farm Christmas pageant. Without question, Anna is a producer too, of events like these, which she does regularly, where hoards of people have fun and get to know each other and are fed. It's one of her gifts to the world.

Her gift to me, besides becoming a welcoming, wise human being, is two very muddy, happy little boys.

I just heard from her - Eli's other grandmother, one of his aunts, and her four kids stayed the night and are still there. Anna and family live in a two bedroom apartment. "Cousin parties are the best parties!" she wrote.

Miraculous.  She just sent me this, too:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

King Charles III

We just had two days of full-on summer - 30 degrees feeling like much more - and now it's going back to a normal springtime. Which is a relief, because I haven't even had time to bring out my summer clothes yet. Plus good weather is important because my beloved daughter is throwing a birthday party for her older son on Saturday and is expecting 18 adults and 19 children. Yes. She is insane. But Thomas comes from a big family, there are lots of cousins and step-cousins and she wants Eli to know his family. So 19 children, including some extremely energetic boys. Luckily the weather will be good and they'll be outside; she devises all kinds of fun things for them to do. And then there's opening presents and cake, which will occupy them all for at least seven minutes.

Eli is FIVE. How did that happen so fast? I know, that's what boring old people always say. And now that's me.

Have been immersed in teaching work and trying to get the house and my life in order all week, hence not writing here. The cultural appropriation controversy continues to rage; another magazine editor resigned and a CBC producer was reassigned, as a result of their intemperate responses. In one way, the Writers' Union did us all a favour in bringing this important issue to the forefront.

Last week I saw there was a rerun of the second episode of The Handmaid's Tale, the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dark dystopian fantasy, and started eagerly to watch - it has had very good reviews. But I had to turn it off. Dark doesn't even begin to describe it - it's unbelievably depressing, and there's already far too much that's depressing - and terrifying - going on out there. Instead I watched King Charles III, a British production imagining a few years hence when the Queen dies and Charles takes over. He is however out of touch and finds himself shoved aside by his son. Strange to watch Will and Kate and Harry and Camilla, not to mention Charles himself, portrayed on film in a kind of Shakespearean tragedy in blank verse. An excellent production.

But mostly, I, like most of the planet, am preoccupied with something vastly more sleazy, avidly reading the papers for the latest scandal, the latest unbelievable stupidity. And the man never disappoints.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Beth was wrong

Dear bloggees, I was wrong. I am rarely wrong, as you know, usually sublimely right in most every facet of life. But in this vital controversy, I was wrong, and as it often does, it took my glorious daughter to set me straight. It stems partly from a misunderstanding about the actual meaning of the words 'cultural appropriation,' which I took merely to be a benign imagining of another culture, but which, as the writer pointed out in yesterday's post, is not the case, it has a much more venomous connotation of theft and exploitation.

But Anna also reminded me about the suffering of indigenous people in this country, not just in the past, but to this day - the lack of clean drinking water, hospitals and schools, the phenomenally high suicide rate among youth, a situation caused by neglect and indifference, and for a time, actual government policy, an aim to destroy indigenous languages and communities. So anything we can do to set that abysmal situation straight, to make it better, is what we should be focussed on, and not a sarcastic rant about how we white folk should be able to write whatever we want.

Anna sent me this, Jesse Wente on CBC radio this morning, a profoundly moving talk about what the issue means to him as an indigenous man.

I am sorry for rushing to judgement and recrimination. What's good about this is that it has blown the lid from long-held assumptions and thoughtless notions, and, perhaps, a kind of racism we were - or at least I was - not even aware of.

Here's my wise and beautiful daughter. We had dinner there yesterday. Joy.
In my cab home, the driver, who watched my grandsons waving goodbye, said, "You're lucky. My mother is in Ethiopia." Yes. Very lucky and very blessed. Though sometimes, remarkably obtuse.

P.S. This is not to say that sometimes the forces of political correctness do not go to absurd extremes, because they do. But not in this instance.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


The appropriation controversy rages on. Everyone is weighing in, some with helpful calm perspective and some most decidedly not. On a friend's FB page, someone replied to a comment with this, which is helpful.
You can write anything you want, though you might be criticized if you take ownership of someone else's culture in a way that is shallow and opportunistic. Cultural appropriation is not the same as imagination or intercultural dialogue or any other nuanced idea. Cultural appropriation refers to a kind of exploitation of others with less power.

That helps me see the issue in a new way. And that's my last word on this issue. The whole world is disintegrating, climate change and the weather are destroying the planet plus there's a fascist lunatic with his finger on the nuclear button, no, two fascist lunatics, no, more, THREE, North Korea, Russia, and the U.S. Plus Turkey and the Philippines. Imagine, a worldwide gang of fascist lunatics which includes the United States. So it's the bigger picture that preoccupies me now.

To the point that I almost want to stop clicking here, stop reading the newspaper. The relentless explosion of news, yet another absurdity, another atrocity, another reason to tear out your hair. More importantly - another good friend is battling cancer. Brucie is still recovering in hospital in Italy. It seems perhaps he had a stroke; his sister is on the case. We are fragile, we older human beings. That's enough to deal with, without the horror of all the rest.

And yet despite all this, for the first time in a long time - I feel great. Because I'm home? It's spring? All that. I'm home, and it's spring, and I have some energy. Today, my friend Grace came to help me with technology - we upgraded the Mac to the latest operating system which so far has only caused two giant headaches - and she helped me take the plants that wintered in my study outside. It really must be spring.

Now I'm going to go watch a repeat episode of "The Handmaid's Tale" on Bravo. A dose of Margaret Atwood dystopia, just in case I'm feeling a little too perky.

And here, for your delight, is my beloved Macca, a bit hairier than usual ...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Writers' Union of Canada @#$storm

Beautiful days - colder than usual but sunny, green shoots and flowers everywhere. Spring is here, it's just being shy.

Okay, I just KNOW you want me to wade into controversy. Perhaps you've been hiding under the bed and have not heard about the hurricane at the Writers' Union of Canada, which was on the front page of the Star today. Except for Alice's Nobel Prize, no one has ever paid so much attention to writers in this country. Unfortunately, it takes a tempest in a teapot to make people realize that yes, there are writers here, lots of them, to the point that they have a UNION. Which has a house mag called Write, which just put out an attractive issue featuring the work of indigenous writers. And which made the huge mistake of printing an opinion piece by the editor.

The editor, Hal Hiedzviecki, wrote a truly ill-advised piece stating his personal belief that there is no such thing as cultural appropriation, that writers should be free to write about whatever they want. "Relentlessly explore the lives of people who aren't like you..." he wrote. So far so good; I completely agree. "Cultural appropriation" is a huge flashpoint, stating that non-indigenous people, for example, should not create indigenous characters or imagine the indigenous experience. To my mind, if you keep going that way, Tolstoy the male should not write the voice of Anna Karenina, and Sherman Alexie, an indigenous writer, should not write about white people. However, the concern, I gather, is largely that marginalized people should not be ripped off by being represented by artists from the dominant culture who might in any way profit from their marginalization.

But Niedzviecki, a hard-working writer and socially conscious man, then moved into murkier, more dangerous territory, suggesting an "appropriation prize" and writing with a touch of condescension about the experience of indigenous writers. Clumsy and poorly thought out, but from someone obviously well-meaning who, let us not forget, created this issue of the magazine with its 100% indigenous content. However, the shitstorm was instantaneous, with not only indigenous writers, but many more-sensitive-than-thou writers jumping in about how mortally offended and hurt they were. A white colleague of mine wrote on FB that she hoped her indigenous colleagues would please forgive her and how could she help make the Writers Union a safe, unthreatening place for them once more? Another, My hope coming out of this is that I, and others in the settler culture, can begin to more deeply understand how manipulated we are by our own privilege and internal programming and do the necessary work we must do to step more meaningfully closer to reconciliation. And another wrote that we should feel for marginalized writers timidly approaching "the citadel" of literature and being brutally turned away by the likes of Hal and his editorial.

Oh sheesh. The citadel. If she thinks I'm in a citadel of literature because I'm white and middle-class, let me tell you, I'd like to find out where it is so I can take up residence. We are all doing our best out here in the wilderness, trying to write our truth. Anyway, Hal resigned or was fired and the magazine printed an abject apology.

Of course immediately, heart pumping, I jumped in, writing a letter to the Union and then posting it on FB:
I cannot tell you how strongly I object to the firing or forced resignation of Hal Niedzviecki for writing a thoughtful if controversial opinion piece. Are we children, that we can’t evaluate different opinions than our own? In fact, this hoo-ha is exactly what he’s writing about - the politics of grievance. Our feelings must not be hurt. 

I am an adult, able to figure out what I agree with and what I don’t, and I despise a culture that denies me that right. Have you ever watched Bill Maher? This is what he goes on about, the absurd extremes of namby-pamby’ism on the left, one of the reasons Trump is President. 

I support Mr. Niedzviecki and the magazine 100%. Please bring him back. Please forward this to him. Please let’s grow up together.

I then wrote to apologize for the intensity of my tone, that I was carried away, that I don't despise anything but Trump but I do dislike opinion being silenced. Instead of firing the editor, shouldn't someone write a rebuttal? Aren't we writers? I asked. Isn't this what we do? I received a reply online from another colleague, that it's all very well for a privileged person like me to react this way, but that we need to be more respectful and inclusive, not less. 

With which I completely agree, though not, I guess, in the same way.

He wrote, Let's talk about how we can release under-represented voices, not how white folks can appropriate them. But that's not what Hal was proposing.

And at that, I decided to let it go. There are two vital issues here: one, silencing opinion - not vile racist or sexist or fascist opinion, just controversial and contrarian - when we dislike or disagree with it. And two, "cultural appropriation", being told by the cultural police, the office of political correctness, what we can or cannot write about. But getting involved is asking for nothing but trouble; just writing this blog post may be a bad idea. The level of hysteria is frightening. The haters are out in force, the twitter hyenas, and who am I but a dinosaur, a privileged old-fashioned cisgender white woman safely ensconced in the citadel. Where, incidentally, yet another essay of mine was just turned down by a literary magazine for not being literary enough.

Poor Writers' Union in a hornet's nest. Poor Mr. Niedzviecki. Very unwise but utterly undeserving, IMHO, of what is raining down up them. 

Otherwise, all is well. And for those of you who've asked, Bruce is better. Thank you. Over and out.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My heroes! Tonight!

I'll be staying up late for once. Can't wait.


Suddenly everything is relative. I was awakened this morning - in my own bed, not in my friend Bruce's bed in Vancouver where I've been sleeping for two weeks while he's in Italy - by Lani, who asked if I'd heard about Bruce. I shot up. Last night, she told me, he had a cerebral hemorrhage.

Many emails today. His sister Jane is leaving for Italy Thursday with her husband Charles and Marsha from the Arts Club Theatre, where Bruce worked. Jane wrote that her ticket is open-ended, she'll stay as long as is needed to get Bruce home. The miracle is that he was with an Italian friend, Giuliano. Usually, during his very long sojourns in Italy, he's alone, staying in some airbnb flat in a small town in the middle of nowhere, off every morning to visit another Renaissance masterpiece or two. But this week, he was staying with Giuliano who heard noise, found him, and got him to the hospital. Blessings. Giuliano sent Jane a photo - our Bruce in hospital, tubes everywhere, but smiling. Prayers.

We were together in Nice last month. I now feel guilty because I was so anxious to get to London, I cut our time together short. But nothing to be done now. Here we are on the Promenade des Anglais:
Two loners, recently we've been to Barcelona and Madrid, to the Amalfi Coast and Naples, Florence, Rome, and Cinque Terre together - wonderful times. All thoughts with you, beloved friend. All that matters is health, dear ones. Take care of yourselves.

Re my homecoming journey, all is well, more than well. I got to the Vancouver airport so early that with a bit of money, I was able to change my flight to an earlier one. I watched two fantastic movies I'd wanted very much to see, "I am not your negro," James Baldwin dealing with race in America, slow-moving but extremely powerful, and the new Ken Loach film "I, Daniel Blake," about one decent man caught in the humiliating, infuriating, Kafka-esque British social services, an unforgettable film I hope you all see. It's a bit heavy-handed but beautifully done. Bravo to both magnificent films.

I was glad to be watching them because I was in the centre row of 3 seats next to an embattled mother with two young children. She was well-organized, hard-working, doing her best. Her children were horrendously out of control, perhaps clinically so - could they both have had ADD or autism or worse? Both relentless, noisy, screaming, demanding; the boy of about 3 sitting next to me hit me several times until I made clear that was to stop, the little girl, maybe 18 months, writhing, shrieking - it was painful. How I felt for that woman. So the films were a blessing.

Home. My house bed garden. The city in bloom, though it's not warm yet, at least at night. But green green green. U of T started this afternoon, a fabulous class, tomorrow Ryerson, Thursday my home group. Settling back into routine. Only one problem - the overhanging shadow of my friend in Italy and his recovery. May he soon be in his OWN bed, which I made up for him before I left. Come home, Brucie. We miss you. We love you.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Macron, rhodos, Ancora: a triumphant day

Skyped with Lynn today in Provence, mid-afternoon her time - she said after the debate between Le Pen and Macron, it was sure who would win. She said Le Pen had managed to convince people she was just an ordinary right-wing politician, but in the debate she spewed hatred and misinformation, and she was ill prepared; it was a debacle for the hideous Front National. They have not gone away, but they were defeated today. Bravo for France. Smarter than the Americans. No surprise there.

It's the end of a sunny day - the beaches of the West End are packed with people, young and old, having picnics, playing in the sand - a group of young people brought a portable dance floor and were cha cha cha'ing on the grass. I am looking at the water as the sun goes down behind the mountains - two people paddleboarding, skimming across the water, the little boats chugging back in. On a day like today, it's pure paradise here.

It was the Vancouver Marathon this morning, which goes right by Bruce's front door - both the half and the full marathon, fronted by the Africans, the human cheetahs who pound by as if just running for the bus instead of finishing many kilometres. And then, behind, the great normal runners, and then the ordinary folk, thousands of them lumbering along. I went down to applaud, and for the rest of the day, the city was full of people wearing marathon medals around their necks. Well deserved medals.
Crazy people. 
Chris and I went for a walk in Stanley Park to see the rhododendrons and azaleas. I have to say that besides the mountains and the ocean, what Vancouver has going for it are those two flower bushes, which we do not get in Ontario. Stunning. And for some reason, there was a big fake moose.
We took a break, I went home to clean and pack, and we met again early evening by the water - Chris brought a half bottle of champagne and glasses, I brought some hummus and crackers, and we had our aperitif sitting on a picnic bench watching the boats in the sunshine. And then we went to Chris's favourite restaurant - Ancora, again right on the water, serving food that's a mix of Peruvian and Japanese. Yes. Mostly fish, and sublime. 

Our waitress was so beautiful and kind, I asked her if she wanted to come to Toronto to meet my handsome son. She thought I was joking.

So my friend and I have said goodbye. I came here largely to be with him, one of the most interesting, creative people I have ever known. Going through a tough time right now, but getting better. He sure knows how to have a good time. I will miss him a lot. 

But despite this glorious city and my beloved friend, I will be very glad to be home. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

the Creative Non-Fiction Collective hooray!

Friday was the start of the Creative Non-fiction Collective's conference at UBC. I went out early, so I could go first to the Museum of Anthropology nearby. Its stunning building houses a moving, beautifully presented collection of First Nation's artifacts, but also a collection of indigenous work from around the world. Not to be missed.
Totem poles, bentwood boxes, canoes -

 And - be still my beating heart - the most gorgeous baskets, hundreds of them. On my fondest wish list is a basket like this. Dream on, sister.
The museum continues with a long house and more poles outside.

Thence to the conference. After registration, there was an hour to kill before drinks and dinner, so John Barton, my friend from last year's conference, and I went for a walk. Discovered the staircase down to Vancouver's famous Wreck Beach, the nude beach, and decided to see it. It's quite the hike.

403 stairs, someone told us. But worth it - no naked people but a lovely beach in the sun. Getting back up took some doing.

The conference started with a dinner and cabaret - many writers reading short excerpts from their work, a huge diversity - and continued all day today, from 9 a.m. to nearly 5.30. There was an informal dinner tonight I was going to attend but was just too tired after a full day of talks and talking, meeting fascinating new people and thinking about words. I have made notes and will write about what the day brought forth, but not right now. It was a fantastic conference and a marvel to spend time with my peeps - declared non-fiction writers, a great bunch of people. Love them. And exciting news: next year's conference is in Toronto. May 4-6. Mark your calendars. See you there.

I am sitting in Bruce's chair, have just had leftover pizza (brought from Tofino!) and wine and am gazing at the sunset, the sky orange and grey-blue, the ocean rippling blue-black, eleven vast tankers motionless in English Bay with their lights glittering. It's quiet and I am drained. Tomorrow, my last day, will actually be sunny, and Chris and I will do something. And then, Monday morning, I go home. This spring's peregrinations are over. Paris, Gordes, Montpellier, Nice, London, Vancouver, and Chesterman Beach ... much to digest, much to remember, everything to be grateful for.

Friday, May 5, 2017

champagne with Chris

Home - not to Toronto, but to Bruce's nest in the clouds, seven stories above the ocean. I'd almost finished a draft of the memoir at 10.30 a.m. yesterday, forced myself out of bed to clean up, pack and have a last walk on the beach. Of course the sun was just preparing to emerge for the first time since I arrived. Even so, what a treat my two days were. Expensive - if I'd really calculated how much it cost, I would not have gone. But luckily I just heedlessly went ahead, to lie in bed for two days thinking, writing, reading. This is known as me time, much needed in our hectic world. And now I've had some.

Had to leave by 11 a.m., bidding a grateful farewell to Todd and Lynda who run the place and have created such a sanctuary of peace. I'll have to come back again and try for some sun.
 The view outside the window 6 a.m. Thursday morning - nothing but white mist.
 The view of the kitchen from the bed, where I spent most of my time.
Stopped to take a look at Long Beach, but drove on.

I drove fast, because that afternoon, a big thunderstorm with hail was predicted - did not want to take a floatplane in a storm! So I made record time to Nanaimo, zipping through the most glorious scenery, shimmering mountain lakes and cedar forests ... next time. My chariot awaited.
 The chariot.
Back to the big city and Stanley Park. What a sight!

Of course, Vancouver was hot, no storm at all, though it did rain overnight. After unpacking and getting myself organized I went to Chris's where he regaled me with champagne, his drink of choice - and then we went to his favourite French bistro on Davie Street for dinner. He said after reading me complain about not going out for dinner in Europe, he had to make sure I had one nice dinner here. And it was plenty nice, the freshest halibut in a bath of ratatouille, divine. My friend who has been having such trouble speaking and moving has no trouble when he's with old friends, and we're pretty old, BFF's since 1975. So we jabber a lot. Much to discuss. That's what old friends are for.

Today it was grey, and I worked all morning finishing the draft and emailing it to Rosemary Shipton, the master editor, who has agreed to read it. A relief, and new trepidation. Now there's a bit of blue on the horizon, and I'm about to head off to UBC for the first evening of the Creative Non-fiction Collective's annual conference, which is why I'm here. Oh yes, THAT's why I'm here. Almost forgot.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

bed rest/seaview cure continues

It poured all yesterday, all night, much of today. Now, at 3 p.m., it's grey, windy, and drizzling but not heavy rain. I lay in bed all morning, working, reading, computing, imbibing coffee, cereal and peanut butter toast. Finally, at noon, ran out of food, so had to get dressed - dressed! - and out the door in the rain, to find Red Can Catering someone here told me about, with, she said, "gourmet takeout." Really? I thought, in my snobbish Toronto way. Gourmet takeout - in Tofino?

I came back with a hot gourmet pizza - artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions and roasted garlic - and with seafood chowder and a salad with fresh baguette for supper. The pizza was so good, I had to have a glass of wine with it. Gourmet takeout indeed! And then putting on many layers I went for a walk on the crowded beach. There were at least five people and several surfers, the whole length of Chesterman Beach.

Now I'm back in bed, working, looking forward to my chowder. I cannot recommend this more highly - a day or two in bed with a computer. The thing is, though, that you need a view of cold grey skies and wet trees. That makes bed SO much better.
The view from my window
 The room with its heavenly fire
 The crowded beach at low tide
Just off the beach is Frank Island, which is private property. There's a house on there - can you see it?  What an amazing place, surely with no electricity or plumbing, though you never know.
Multicoloured starfish waiting for the sea to come back in
 Anemones? I have no idea what these beautiful emerald things are.
My very own deck, with a table I'd use if there were sun. Love how they've accommodated the tree.

Tomorrow, of course, it's meant to be sunny, so I hope to be up early and have another walk on the beach. Perhaps I won't manage a hike through the ancient cedar forests this time. Have to leave this gorgeous place by 11 a.m. and get back to Nanaimo. Will go first to Red Can Catering and get a sandwich for the trip.

Silence, except for the distant roar of wind and sea. No one here, no one to talk to. I love it. Especially because you are there to write to, email is there, the phone. I am alone and not alone, feeling better, safe and warm in the trees with pizza, chowder, the ocean. Grateful for every moment.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

the ocean-view cure

Where is she now, you ask, the footloose one? I'm in a big bed with four huge pillows in front of a fire stove burning hot. There's a little kitchen stocked with supplies I brought with me - cheese, wine, nuts, even a little baggie of peanut butter. And outside the window I can see Chesterman Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island, being pounded by the Pacific Ocean in the driving rain. Could I be cosier? Absolutely not.

Patsy and I came here to Chesterman Beach B and B last year, to a lovely little cabin, but this time I booked "The Lookout" as a solitary treat for myself, a tranquil work space and think place. (And I will certainly be looking out - at the freezing wet wind-swept beach where I will not be walking anytime soon.) I almost cancelled this little jaunt, was feeling so shaky. But I'd prepaid so had to go - luckily. Which involved taking a float plane to Nanaimo, where I met old friend Patsy, then renting a car and driving 3 hours across the island on winding mountain roads.

First I had to get from Bruce's to the harbour airport, which is complicated on transit at rush hour, so last night I called Black Top Cabs and booked a cab for 9 a.m. This morning I called to reconfirm and change the time to 8.55. At 8.50 I was outside waiting; at 9 I called the company. A cab hadn't even been dispatched to my address, she said, and she had no idea when one would be. When I hit the roof, she said, ma'am, it's rush hour.

Lesson: do not EVER get Black Top Cabs in Vancouver.

I ran up to Davie Street, managed eventually to find a cab and got to Harbour Air on time. The 20 minute flight over the water was wonderful, the sun actually shone for a bit, and dear Patsy had taken the ferry from Gabriola Island and was waiting for me, for a quick coffee. She had brought a care package, the nicest I've ever received - lemon tea and a lemon and clementines, chocolate truffles, a little pot of honey, other goodies ... and a poem, because she is a very fine poet, my friend.

And then I got into the little blue car and drove. It started to pour partway through the trip, of course. What a relief to get here in good time, to be installed in this aerie. I connected to the internet and got into bed.

I am now sipping a Chilean Malbec from a very large wineglass and eating a local Brie with melba toast. In bed. This is called the Chesterman Cure, and it will work, I just know it, I'm feeling better already.


Monday, May 1, 2017

distant memory - heat

Brucie just sent me this picture of our hike around St. Jean Cap Ferrat. It was hot; the sun was relentless. Nearly a month later on the other side of the world, the sky is grey, it's chilly and pouring with rain, and I'm in Bruce's bed feeling terrible. I'd rather be the woman in the picture. Sigh.