Wednesday, August 29, 2018

R.I.P. Ann Ireland

My boss at Ryerson for 20 years was Ann Ireland, a writer who handled her literary career and a big academic job with patience, grace, and humour, dealing with university administrators' bottom lines and complaining writers. Her latest book was launched this spring, and only a few weeks ago, she and I were corresponding about a Ryerson internet issue.

Three weeks ago, Ann was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. She died a few days ago. According to her best friend Sarah, she was at peace.

If there is ever a reminder for us all to live as if each week is our last, it's Ann's story. How grateful I am that it was thoughtful, efficient Ann who kept us all going at the Chang School for so long. My heart goes out to her family.

So - getting caught up. Lynn and I keep busy, and a certain amount of rosé is being drunk, as you can imagine. A certain amount of talking is going on. On Sunday evening we watched the finale of Sharp Objects - she hadn't seen any of it so it took me half an hour to prepare her - what a terrific series! Dark dark dark, a story about twisted, deeply damaged women. Very good television.

On Monday, a documentary, McQueen, about the British bad boy designer, Alexander McQueen, a doc recommended by my friend Nettie Wild, a prizewinning doc maker herself, so a recommendation to take seriously, though even so, I wondered if I'd enjoy a doc about a famous clothing designer. But it was very good, very moving, not what I expected - who cares about haute couture? But this is the story of the pudgy son of a British cab driver who adores fashion from childhood and ends up at far too young an age running Givenchy in Paris - having to come up with many shows a year and burning himself out - "a talent torched by its own incandescence," as says the New Yorker, about McQueen and his countrymate Amy Winehouse.

Lynn and I walked after along Millionaires Row - Bloor Street - Prada, Chanel etc. - and I saw it all through new eyes. Though truly, even after what I learned in the doc, it all just looks expensive and silly to me. Mind-blowingly, ridiculously expensive.

Yesterday's excitement: we went to an arriba dance class at the Y, the two of us trying to keep up with the flashing feet of a too-fast instructor. And then to the car rental place to meet Anna, who drove us to a palace of consumption: Costco. Believe it or not, my first visit there, and as everyone's does, my jaw dropped. A huge jar of Maille mustard for $5.50! Lynn pointed out this was far less than they pay in France, let alone at Loblaws. So much stuff, so very, very much stuff and free samples on every corner. Cheese, tons of cheese. Exciting and eventually, overwhelming.

Now we are about to prepare for a neighbourhood gathering - three of my Francophone neighbours coming for an aperitif with ma copine from Provence. And yes, again, a little bit of rosé will be consumed. It's very hot. Nothing like a cold drink to cool you down.
Denis, some random movie star, and Ken, on the Toronto Islands
Monsieur at work on the deck
Madame at work in the kitchen. Chopping. We do a lot of chopping. And eating, talking, drinking, walking, watching TV, and enjoying every single bit of the day. We've been really good at that since we were teenagers. Grateful to be alive, together, laughing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

French friends in Trawna

Busy! Busybusybusy. House guests, and not just any house guests, but Lynn and Denis, guests from FRANCE. This means things need to be right. What to do with a couple who have visited most countries on earth? Visits, outings, and meals were planned and executed. And it was wonderful.
- Dim sum with Wayson and two of his own best friends
- A bike ride for Denis with Jean-Marc along the lake to the Leslie Street Spit, showing him architectural and natural sights, and then a long dinner in the garden, on the beautiful Provencal tablecloth Lynn brought, with Jean-Marc and our mutual old friend Louise, visiting from Ottawa. When Louise was ready to go, the friend who came to pick her up turned out by complete coincidence to be an old colleague of Jean-Marc's.
- A ferry ride to Ward's Island with mutual friend Ken, a walkabout, and later, dinner for all of us at Sam's restaurant, with special different cocktails, or a mocktail for the non-drinker, made for each of us by the tall bartender
- Another visit and lunch in the garden with Louise and then a very slow streetcar out to the Beach to visit Anne-Marie and Jim (I joke that I have "four intelligent Catholic friends" - Lynn, Denis, Anne-Marie, and Ken, all practicing Catholics and yet - really really smart! A mystery to me) - a walk around Ashbridges Bay Park, a swim in Lake Ontario, and dinner at their place in the Beach - trout barbecued on a cedar plank and all manner of fresh Ontario produce, including, of course, corn on the cob, which my French friends don't get to eat at home.
- A bike ride for Denis and me to the St. Lawrence farmer's market.
- lunch.
- talking talking talking talking debating talking arguing talking reminiscing talking
- dinner
- oh - and wine. Wine wine wine.

Delicious. Except for a bit of rain, the weather has been beautiful, and except for the appallingly slow service sometimes of the TTC, Toronto was on its best behaviour.  Denis is now in Montreal, soon to depart for France, and Lynn is here with me for three more weeks, her first long stay in Canada for decades. She is currently working in the living room and I in the kitchen. We went to the Y this morning, I to do a class and she to swim. As soon as we got back, I ate a huge lunch, but she has not eaten yet. Our rhythms are different. This means that my Canadian stomach will be hungry again and want supper much earlier than her French stomach, which eats later. We'll work it out.

Our bit of heaven last night - as you know, I like to dance around the kitchen to Randy Bachman on the radio. Last night, there were two of us boogie-ing madly around the kitchen. And then we watched a French movie on the French channel. At one point, she remembered that my childhood dog's name was Brunhilda, Brunie for short - a dachshund - and I remembered that her's was a mutt called Wolf-fang Leroy. We never met each other's dogs, who'd died before we met, but they live on in legend. I have known this woman for 51 years. It's a gift.

My daughter texted from Washington, where she and her boys are visiting her dad - his mother, my ex-mother in law and grandmother to Anna and Sam, died last night. She was in her late eighties and had been suffering from Alzheimers. A powerful woman felled.

And my aunt is still in pain; my brother and I as caregivers disagree about her treatment, which makes everything more difficult.

Would like to tell you more, but I'm full and it's time for my nap.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

the ten minute hurricane

Terrifying - another violent thunderstorm, pounding lashing rain, cracks of thunder - at rush hour. I am in my house wondering again if the sump pump and downspouts will hold, but many thousands of my fellow Torontonians are struggling to get home. And my friends Lynn and Denis are getting on a plane in Montreal, headed here. I have a feeling they might be delayed. The power went off briefly; candles are ready. Luckily my stove is gas.

It has been dark and wet all day, but with several bright spots for me. One is that Toronto city council voted to make a legal challenge to Doug Ford's attempt to destroy it. Local democracy counts!

The other was going with my friend and neighbour Gina to the nearby Children's Book Bank. We had kids' books to give away; I am culling, and extremely painful as it was, I gathered three full boxes of books, board books my grandsons are too old for now - even Ben, who's not that interested in books since you can't climb on them - and others we just won't have time for. So Gina drove us to the Book Bank. And a glorious place it is too - where anyone with a child is invited to come, sit, read, be read to, and go home with an actual book that belongs to them.

This heavenly place has been nearby for years and I've never been there before. But I will certainly be back soon. Small persons in tow.

Chris posted this evocative picture on his blog yesterday
and it reminded me of something I saw downtown the other day. A homeless man had a flatbed cart with a tall frame, loaded with his possessions and also with a mattress; he had obviously grown weary on a street corner, parked, pulled down the curtains, and gone to sleep. We talk about tiny houses - well, they don't get tinier than that. There he was, in his private bedroom at the corner of Yonge and Alexander. And then I guess he rolls up his curtains and sets off, towing his domain behind him.

Speaking of the city's marginalized, since the hideous Ford has also declared a moratorium on new safe injection sites, a band of volunteers has set one up. And I am all in favour, except that this one is close to Anna's house. As she says, she is all in favour too, except that this boulevard was the one part of Parkdale where people were not using. And now they are. A little too close for comfort, as far as I'm concerned. My kids grew up in the inner city and knew far too much too early about human fallibility, and I guess Anna's will too.

Speaking of controversial takes on vital topics, I saw this and liked it very much. It was done by the woman in the picture, an artist. I have come a long way on the niqab, especially after spending a lot of time, last year, with niquabis. But though, yes, women have the right to wear what they want, it rankles in the most visceral way that it's only women who feel they must go faceless.

Have you been watching HBO's Sharp Objects? Just the most riveting TV. After this Sunday's episode, the penultimate, I went to Google and spent half an hour reading about stuff I didn't quite get. Haunting, dangerous, grownup television. Nothing in the world would pull me away from the TV this Sunday at 9, for the final episode. Just as nothing would have pulled me away yesterday at 8 - Carpool Karaoke, James Corden with Paul McCartney. Their brief bit earlier this month was so popular on the 'net, the producers took all the outtakes and did an hour's show. And sheer heaven it was too. SUCH A LOVELY MAN. Funny, self-deprecating, kind. A tiny bit vain. Love. I watched with Wayson, who remembers being in his father's restaurant in Belleville when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. He was in his early twenties, but they hit him hard. I would argue they hit me harder, but who's counting?

My aunt is struggling. She is in great pain, which now we think is because her back is simply disintegrating. After 98 years of feisty independence, she is disintegrating, frail, and vulnerable, and it is painful to witness. My cousin wrote, Maybe we should start stocking piling sleeping pills for ourselves. A bit early yet, I wrote back.

Now - fifteen minutes after I began this post - the rain has stopped and the hot sun is out. The trees are dripping, the sirens are shrieking, but the storm has vanished and for the first time today, it's bright outside. The new normal is that nothing to do with the weather will be normal.

And now, five minutes of proofreading later, the sun has gone, the clouds are back, who knows what will happen next?

Sunday, August 19, 2018


I know life is not going to get easier. The world is in a horrendous mess. I'm 68 and health will at some point start to go wrong for me and for my friends. I know that.

So right now, let me cherish this moment, this sublime Sunday morning. It's not too hot, just a mild breeze, sweet air swishing through the willow tree, sleepy birds, distant city sounds. Everyone is out of town; the silence is palpable. Auntie Do is out of hospital and back in her new home, River Park, where she has made friends with three women called Dorothy, Sylvia, and Margaret - her own name and her sisters'. "The whole family is here," she laughed. Anna and her boys are off tomorrow to Washington to spend a week with her dad. Sam is going to the memorial event today of a friend, one of the owners of the House on Parliament; a staff person there told Sam that one of the last conversations she had with her boss, before he died of a heart attack, was about Sam bringing two boxes of chicken wings as a gift for the staff. My son will probably come here afterward, since it's a block away.

May I count my blessings?

Yesterday I met a new neighbour who has just moved in across the street; he introduced himself, I asked where he was from originally, and immediately we began speaking in French. There are now seven of us within a six house radius who speak fluent French; we should have a Francophone block party.

Then Eli and his dad rode their bikes from Parkdale to here - an hour's ride. When Thomas left,  Eli and I had fun for the rest of the day. We went to the Regent Park playground, so well designed, so many ways to test the body.
My gardening helper Andrew came and we planted spinach, arugula, and lettuce seeds. Eli watered. (Today as we walked he bent down by someone's garden and exclaimed, "Is that a cucumber?" I didn't know what a cucumber plant looked like until two years ago.)

We listened to some of "Sgt. Pepper's" and he said, "I get by with help from my friends too." We watched a bit of "Ferdinand" on the movie channel, he ate a massive dinner of the few foods he will actually eat, had a long bath with the pirate boat, and went to bed clutching a picture of himself hugging his brother Ben while I read "Charlotte's Web." I was awakened at 6.45 a.m. by a very young man still holding the picture. He really loves his brother. More playground, the Farm, drawing pictures, "Paw Patrol," massive quantities of food, our favourite dinosaur puzzle. While he watered, we saw the cardinal fly to its nest in the willow, a perfect spider's web glinting in the sun, the bees nuzzling the Rose of Sharon, and I thought, this is why I'm staying in this house. For this.

Now he has gone off with Holly to a movie. His mama has had a much-needed break from him. He is an angel for everyone but her - especially difficult because they are so alike. As I've said to her, if I'd been a strong mother like she is, taking on every challenge, we'd have murdered each other. I was a wuss as a mother, and so we survived.

This morning, as I brushed my very short hair, he looked at me. "Why do you brush your hair when it doesn't even move?" Good question.

So here I am, now alone in a messy house, blessed in every way. Today. This moment.

PS Later: two more treats today. YoYo Ma - and peaches.

Friday, August 17, 2018

raining in my heart

A dark wet day - more flooding in Toronto, what is wrong with our city fathers, haven't they heard of drains? But it's blessedly cool, and the garden is grateful. Spent hours yesterday and today listening to music on the internet, culling songs, looking for great dance music for my dance party in September. I'm finally entering the 21st century musically. Thrilling. (Though never had an i thingie to listen to music with and hardly know how to download. So still in the dark ages. But struggling to move forward.)

Had a wonderful email from former student Jill Weber, a pastor who is living for awhile in England.
I just wanted to let you know that after almost nine months of conversations with a UK publisher, today I finally signed a contract! My first memoir is nearing completion - I hope to be finished the final draft by Christmas. European release will be next summer or fall and North American release some time after that.

I'm also being published in a couple other arenas - writing resources in my field, contributing a chapter for an anthology, even writing material for a spirituality app! Two hours of my work day are set aside for writing of one type or another for publication.

I just wanted to thank you for your class and your memoir writing book that were so formative and helpful to my process. I'm still a young writer, still finding my voice, still culling pesky adverbs. But I believe the foundation you laid for me was instrumental and I am deeply grateful.

Jill didn't need much from me; she was focussed and dedicated from the start. Still, what pleasure to hear I was some help.  

Got this today from Sarah, who took it during her visit with her kids to Anna and her's on Monday. I entitle it "The beautiful woman and some old bag." What a lovely open face and smile that gorgeous young woman has. 
Just got a message from my brother - my aunt has been transferred to the Civic Hospital because of her back pain. She had another fall the other day and was not in good shape, apparently, though when I spoke with her this afternoon, she had not a word of complaint. A fierce and formidable soul is fighting for life. My heart is with her.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mourning Aretha

They're playing that glorious, rich, incredible voice over and over on the radio, and I am weeping. It seems she has always been there, her strength, her dedication, the soaring instrument that could do anything. I've been hearing things I didn't know about her life - that she had her first baby at 12, her second at 15. That child mother grew up to sing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Got out the one album of her's that has survived my travelling life. Very, very worn. Talk about a Desert Island Disc. All you need.

Thank you, beautiful Aretha, for all you gave. So much, for us all.

My friend Jenny Dean, singer and actress, said it for all of us on FB:
1967. A twelve year old string bean of a girl shaking her skinny white butt in a Swansea laneway singing her heart out with Aretha Franklin. She’s thinking this is the most passionate, uplifting and joyous voice she has ever heard coming from her transistor radio. This is what a woman singing should sound like. Aretha shaking the world, changing everything.

Aretha. Rock steady through the universe forever.


midsummer day's dream

8 a.m. on a beautiful, sweet morning, a reprieve during this sweltering summer. Yesterday, I was in the garden, listening to the cardinal heckling me - where's the @#$#@ seed, slowpoke? We're waiting! So I filled the feeder and the fearless bird swooped in immediately, a few feet from me, his scarlet topknot rising and falling as he pecked. And then he flew to the nearby fence and popped the seed into the mouth of a small brown bird with scarlet tinges. Back and forth he flew, the baby squawking I assume with gratefulness and not the way Eli sounds sometimes as he whines, I don't like this stuff, donwanit.

The drama of life in the garden. The minuscule spider in my bedroom, however, has vanished, and so has his web. No idea what happened to them, how they could completely disappear.

Soon the noises will start. Bell is installing fibre optic cable, whatever that is, and they're ripping up the street nearby. But for now, my oasis.

Monday - my best friend Lynn grew up in Chateauguay, outside of Montreal, and has come in from Provence with her husband Denis to visit friends and family. In July, three of her adult children flew from their far-flung homes - Sarah from Nairobi with her three half-Burundian children, Myriam from Mauritius with her two Muslim sons, and Christopher from London with his partner and their half-Spanish daughter. This international brood went to Banff and Jasper and back to Chateauguay, and then Sarah came to Toronto with her kids to visit an old friend of hers, and us.

I've known Sarah since she was a very small girl; recently she's been head of various third world NGO's including Handicap International in Nepal, then in Zimbabwe, and now in Nairobi. An extraordinary life. Her marriage to a Burundian ended in divorce, so she is the single mother of six-year old twin boys and a nine year old girl. A strong accomplished admirable woman. Eli and the twins immediately vanished into Anna's yard and were soon screaming with laughter; Maude, with no one to play with, got out her iPad while we prepared lunch and Anna and Sarah discussed motherhood today.

A special joy, to meet the children of your best friend's children.
A momentary lull in the action.
Maude has her grandmother Lynn's smile.

Lynn and Denis come to Toronto next week, Denis for a few days and Lynn to stay with me for 3 weeks. She and I met at Carleton University 51 years ago, in September 1967, when I was just 17 you know what I mean, and she, I never let her forget, a year and a month older. Despite homes on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we've enjoyed a lifetime of laughter. No greater gift than that.

Tuesday, a first - I met with a high school student who's off to university in September and wanted to improve her writing skills. She sent me two of her high school essays and we met to discuss how they could have been better and general principles of good writing. How impressed I am, I told her, that you've taken the initiative to learn how to write properly and well.

I gazed at her, so beautiful, perfect unlined skin, thick shining hair, glowing with health and youth - exactly the age that Lynn and I were when we met. We must have looked like that. And inside, we still do.

That evening, I was invited to my other Lynn friend's for dinner and a swim. When this Lynn bought a huge house in north Toronto, she and her husband transformed their ordinary backyard pool into what looks like a small lake, with irregular stone sides and overhanging shrubs and trees, restful and stunning. The day was, as always, breath-suckingly hot, so plunging into that tiny lake was beyond heaven. We floated for an hour, buoyed by pool noodles, before emerging for a gourmet dinner which included a 2014 Corton, because Lynn is an oenophile. And then, since her husband was out and the pool secluded, I took off my clothes and floated in the pool again.

Read my friend Theresa's evocative blog post yesterday about swimming every day in a nearby lake, and I'm jealous of her, of Lynn. The only way to survive these blistering summers is in a body of water. With no cottage and no pool and Lake Ontario flooded with sewage after last week's storm, I am doomed to swelter.

And also doomed to rewrite, yet again, the blessed memoir. Received the report of the young editor, perspicacious and punchy - this works, this does not. Less of this and more of this. A bit of it I don't agree with - there is a generational issue, for example, when I use the word 'retarded' because that is the word we used in 1979 when the book takes place, and my editor recoils in horror. But most of what she wrote is extremely useful. Even as I sigh at the work ahead.

I spent much of yesterday editing other people's writing and then trying to digest the comments of my own editor. Fascinating - that one can be a successful critic of others and yet so in need of those critical eyes for one's own work.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kenojuak Ashevak's owls

An unexpectedly enjoyable Sunday morning. I was up early so decided to go to the Runfit class at the Y. Friday I set off for there midday, and the weather was so beautiful, I turned around, deciding to just run outside and get on with my day. And of course, I didn't. If I don't go to the Y, in my undisciplined way, usually I simply don't do fitness type things. So reluctantly I went this morning, there was a new teacher with fabulous music, and the class flew by. My body hurts, but that's good.

Now listening to CBC's Michael Enright interview an all-female piano quartet called Ensemble Made in Canada. He just played part of the exquisite second movement of the Mozart Piano Quartet #2. Glorious.

Friday's treat - I was messing about at home when I realized that the exhibition of Inuit art at the AGO would soon be over. So I hopped on my bike. This might be the first exhibit of Inuit artists curated by Inuit artists. It featured one of the best known, Kenojuak Ashevak, whose gorgeous birds are iconic - my parents had her images in their home in the seventies, on calendars and prints -  and her nephew Timootee Pitiulak, whose work shows life in the Arctic today. His work is terrific, but hers is stunning, breathtaking, spiritual.
 Owl Sentinel - Kenojuak.

Pitiulak, Computer Generation, 2012. (Note - his computer is plugged into his hat.)

So - summer is rolling by. Visiting with friends Christopher, Jean-Marc, Gretchen, serving everyone gazpacho, as I'm still eating a cucumber- and tomato-based diet. Former student and current friend Gerry Withey (one of her stories is on this website under Teaching) sent me this print of hers; she's now more visual artist than writer. She calls the print Bliss, and so it is; for me, all that's missing is the cat. Right now, I'm reading two very good library books, Florida by Lauren Groff, such powerful short stories, I cannot read them before bed, and The Untethered Soul: the journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer, which just might change my life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

after the flood

Several have written to ask if we're safe here after the torrential rains of yesterday and this morning, that had Union Station under a foot of water and various streets completely flooded. Two men trapped in a flooded elevator had one foot of air left before they were rescued. What a violent switch - from muggy, bright, and very hot, to dark and incredibly wet.
Yesterday morning, the garden looked like this:
The yellow golden glow at the far end standing tall, maybe 8 or 9 feet tall, with the rudbekia glowing gold beneath.

This morning, the golden glow looked like this:
A lot of stalks smashed and broken. But everything else survived, and the basement did not flood. The basement did not flood! Hooray little sump pump, you're my hero. That basement used to fill with water after just a little rain - after something like last night, it'd be horrendous. Not to mention my skylights and roof which also used to leak. As I've written before, my then handyman said I must have offended the water gods in a previous life because of the constant water issues in this house.

But today - so far - high and dry. Not high enough, as my daughter would laugh. But then, it's only 11 a.m.

Monday, August 6, 2018

"Eighth Grade" and "Sorry to bother you" = A+

A pleasure to catch up on movies during a heat wave. Saturday, "Eighth Grade" with Ken, and today "Sorry to bother you" with Sam - both superb, heartening signs of the strength and innovative creativity of the American film industry today.

"Eighth Grade" is a painful look inside the soul of an American 13-year old - very interesting for me since I spent years delving into my own 13-year old self for my memoir. The writer/director Bo Burnham does a great job of bringing an ordinary, rather plain, pimply, shy, yet sensitive and ever hopeful girl to life, depicting her world of the savage cliques of middle school, the vast jungle of the internet that devours her time, the creepy boys she must learn to deflect and navigate. In 1964 I wrote in my diary; she posts a stream of heartfelt, encouraging videos on Instagram where anyone can see them, though probably, no one does. I felt this film in my bones.

My only real criticism is in the persona of her father, who, unlike his daughter, is Hollywood handsome and decent, kind and wonderful. At one point, he delivers the most glorious, loving speech any daughter could ever hope to hear from her dad. As Ken said on the way out, I never encountered a father like that; I didn't know who that was. Me either. When he was 13 in 1948, Ken was battling a growing terrifying sense of being gay in small town Ontario; when I was 13 in 1963-64, my father was telling me I was spoiled, selfish, lazy, and a neanderthal for loving the Beatles. I cannot imagine what life would have been like if my father had said, over and over, how wonderful I was and how proud he was to be my father. Unimaginable.

But aside from this one bit of treacly fantasyland, a lovely, original film. Afterward I told Sam I was glad he and his sister were always the cool kids, confident in school, and he said, "Are you kidding? I had a giant mole on my forehead in Grade 9 and the kids called me Mole Man. The teasing didn't stop till the mole was removed."

I have absolutely no memory of his giant mole or of arranging to have it removed. Hard to remember a time when he was normal size.

"Sorry to bother you" is not lovely at all but amazingly original it is. Hard even to describe - as Sam said, I thought it was going to be about race, about black people versus white people, but it's really about fighting the excesses of capitalism. It's a funny and horrifying social satire, also written and directed by an immensely talented young man - Boots Riley.

A pleasure to be so stimulated and entertaining and thought-provoked in air conditioned rooms.

Aside from movies, I've continued, slowly, my culling of shelves and basement piles, taking the bulky albums full of photos and stripping them, putting the prints in plastic bags or boxes and throwing away the binders. And yesterday, getting out the pile of daytimers I've kept through two decades, going through them quickly to see what happened when, and then throwing them out. The daytimers show just how incredibly busy I was through those years as a single mother of two not easy children in a leaky old house, while also trying to earn a living, write a difficult book, become fit, have a social life and even, occasionally, a love and sex life (what a distant memory THAT is), keep myself, my children, and our pets and garden healthy, go to Ottawa regularly to visit my mother and aunt, and - oh yes - learn Russian and go to the shrink. It makes me tired to think about it.
Also had to deal with a crisis on my street - the Little Free Library outside my house became a flashpoint for two of the book-stealing crazies in the rooming house up the street, to the point that one threatened violence - "I'll kill you!" - to someone who tried to stop him from taking out all the books. So I had, painfully and reluctantly, to shut it down.

It rained, and instead of close and stifling the air is fresh and clean. Holiday weekend over, back to reality tomorrow, only I walk the streets with a new sense of what it is to be 13 and what it is to be a person of colour in a mad, greedy world. The insightful gifts of art.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

the beach, the beach

To bring you up to date on recent stories: first, the tiny spider in my window has remained motionless for days. Nothing has entered his web, and in any case, he and the web are so small and delicate, his dinner would have to be something in the order of fruitflies, which ordinarily do not hang around my bedroom. I have contemplated trying to catch one in the kitchen and sticking it in the web, but I don't think spiders, even very small ones, approve of that sort of thing.

In fact, he's so still, I wonder if he's even alive. But in any case, I am still careful opening my blinds in the morning.

Auntie Do is now out of hospital and in a recovery place; she's not happy there and misses the hospital. She is hoping to regain enough strength to move home in a week or two, and then we will begin the struggle about the next move - to the Unitarian retirement home which will soon have a place for her. That is, whether she will consider it or not.

And - being 68 is great! My energy was tested yesterday and passed. I worked in the morning (had sent the manuscript of the rewrite off to the young editor and then busily rewrote page after page, so have sent her a rewrite of the rewrite), did a muscleworks class at the Y, and spent the afternoon sorting in the basement with the help of Nicole. I am inspired by the CBC documentary about the lunatic hoarder and am truly attempting to make inroads on the junk here, tossing and tossing. But of course, we come back to family photos and memorabilia, CD's and books - impossible. Paralyzed.

After hours of that I was exhausted, settled into my chair with a good computer when at 5.20 the phone rang - Jean-Marc and Richard were biking to the island to swim and have a picnic, did I want to come and if so could I be ready in 5 minutes? I did and I was. It was heaven, cycling down to the ferry and around the island, landing on the beach, swimming in the cool water, dining together, with wine, on delicious salads and dessert. The beach was crowded and noisy, and of course, since it's clothing optional, there were many penises and a few breasts of various sizes, shapes, and colours parading back and forth. A truly unique place.

JM and Richard are celebrating their 22nd anniversary today. All my love to them - the best neighbours ever.

Will this woman ever learn not to grimace at the camera?

Today, Saturday of the long weekend, the city sounds dead. Heaven. I have cleaned some kitchen cupboards (because mice - don't know what to do, hate traps) and soon will head off to see "Eighth Grade" with Ken.  Later, must deal with vegetables - many cucumbers, much kale, tons of basil.

Bill Maher was back last night after a month away. It was riveting and appalling, his guests laying out in horrifying detail just how much trouble the US is in, just how hideous is the Axis of Evil as defined by Maher - Trump, Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch. Guest Nancy McLean has written a book laying out exactly what Koch is working toward - rescinding various articles of the Constitution to make life much easier and freer for far right billionaires. Apparently, he's nearly there.

Not to mention our planet burning up on all sides, and the ostriches with their heads buried deep.

Hard to reconcile this beautiful hot day with the evil lurking out there. I will put it aside for now. Read in the NYT that we all deserve a holiday from the news. Maybe I should start today.

But how?

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Listening to a CBC documentary about hoarders, crazy people hanging onto stuff that drives their families nuts. An important lesson. Time to purge, girlfriend.

My birthday dinner was wonderful, including five salads made with my very own beans, kale, tomatoes, and, of course, endless cucumbers, and lots of meats barbecued with skill by Thomas. Entertainment by Eli and Ben. Ben told me at one point, about the day before, "I got dung, Glamma!" I wondered if this had something to do with compost, but no, it had to do with wasps.

The next day was lovely, very quiet. I went to Carole's class at the Y, where the whole runfit class sang Happy Birthday. Later, Jean-Marc and Richard came for dinner on the deck, leftovers and rosé, perfect on a mild evening. Many kind messages via FB, phone, and email from dear, thoughtful friends.

Nancy, a student from 2012, wrote to let me know that members of her class still meet regularly, and that she has just posted about my writing book on her brand new blog.

If you’re ready to start writing your own story, here are my suggestions for books on the craft that every writer should read:
Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott. Lamott is funny, passionate, powerful and my favourite writer on writing.
On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King. Need I say more?
True to Life: Fifty Steps to Help You Tell Your Story, Beth Kaplan. Easy to read, funny, with loads of wisdom from a great teacher.
The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. A classic, always on my desk.
Fucking Apostrophes, Simon Griffin. A funny little book that tells you exactly where you can stick your apostrophes.

I'm honoured, Nancy, to be in such fine company - Strunk and White!

Auntie Do is moving right now from hospital to a care facility, to recover. She'll go home from there, but I hope before long to a retirement home. The very stubbornness and independence that has kept her alive for so long is impeding her move to the next step. Stay tuned.

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. -James Baldwin, writer (2 Aug 1924-1987) 

Much, much to do on these long hot quiet days. Here goes.