Saturday, June 29, 2019

Annals of aging, part eleventeen

First, good news, FYI, the garden workshop is sold out.

Second, it's hot but not as hot as France, and it smells glorious here on the deck because it poured last night. Everything is fresh and sweet and soft. But it's especially Wayson's gardenia that scents my life right now. I miss him every day.

But this post is about aging. My friend Annie was over today; she's a few months older than I, 69 already, also grandmother of two, working full-time but retiring next year. I can't imagine someone so powerfully focussed - she works with the Jesuit Forum on world-changing issues - without work, and I told her about Lynn in France, turning - no! - 70 in a few weeks and busier in retirement than ever. We talked about Mick Jagger prancing about after heart surgery, and of course, my indefatigable Macca, touring the world at 77. How our definitions of old have changed.

But when I told Annie that I'd be taking a nap after our lunch on the deck with rosé, she laughed. She doesn't have time, but I have started to nap almost every afternoon, especially if I'm teaching in the evening, but even if not. Until recently, I never ever napped.

I have 3 medical appointments coming up shortly - a mammogram, an eye exam to test for glaucoma, and a dermatologist to remove the hideous white bumps on my forehead. They're minuscule, but I can see them and I hate them. Trying to keep the physical plant going and keep the unsightliness to a minimum. But it's there - the crepey drooping skin, the brown mottles on legs, chest, arms, hands, the deep grooves in the face. I spend at least ten minutes a day fixated on the magnifying mirror, to see what horrible thing has sprouted recently - pimples! moles! miscellaneous bumps! - and removing hair on upper lip and chin.

What's wonderful, though, is that I really don't care. It used to matter so desperately how I looked, but now - who sees me? Who cares how I look? I haven't given up, I still keep fit and try not to wear clothes that would make my children cringe. And yes, to keep the hairs to a minimum. But otherwise, feh.

And don't get me started on the body, the sore knees, the swollen fingers - I need to put cream on my hands at night to get my rings off - the creaking joints.

BUT I'm sitting on the deck with the magnolia and roses wafting my way, sparrows fluttering at the feeder, the garden lush and green - oh look, a dove and a cardinal and seven rosebuds about to open. I've just had supper - ham and fresh asparagus from the market this morning with more rosé. Randy Bachman is on the radio and later there are interesting shows on TV. I have money in the bank, health, healthy children and grandchildren, many things I like to do and work I love. Soon I will be 69, and I have to say, these are the best, the very best days of my life.

Yesterday Ben was over. He found a calculator and pressed it so rows of numbers came up, which he counted. "There's fives - one, two, three, four, eleventeen, nineteen, twenty six."

Decided that I'm eleventeen and shall remain so.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

writers and truth and Eleanor Wachtel's Books on Film

An amazing home class tonight, five of us sitting outside with cheese and wine, reading and telling our deepest truths. How privileged I feel to host encounters of such depth. This time, as well as listening to theirs, I told and read mine and received valuable feedback. What an endless journey it is to be a writer. I joke to my students that if they think the Nobel prize-winning Alice Munro says, yawning, " I think I'll toss off another story," they don't understand the business; that it's never easy, even for Alice Munro. Maybe especially for Alice Munro.

Not back to the drawing board for me, but work to be done. I read a memoir scene from my profligate youth, when I was living in a house with cocaine dealers and sleeping with the dealer across the hall, and what my listeners wanted was - more sex. More grit. I had to say, I don't remember! But that's the job. Unpack. Go back. Even to that not very pleasant time, the memory that makes me wince - go back and bring it to the light. Make them see and hear and feel it.


Well, not right now, anyway, it's after 10 and I'm sleepy. Time to go to bed and pick up Middlemarch, which is fabulous but a long slow read.

Yesterday, the smallest class I've ever had - two students at Ryerson, two brave souls who read and we discussed and then went home early. I'll give them extra time next week, when a few more will be there. It's hard to be in a classroom in summer, and it's definitely high summer here - 30 degrees today, feeling like 36.

On Monday, Eleanor Wachtel invited me to be her guest at the Writers on Film series at TIFF, for a film, Lore, based on a book called The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert. It's the kind of gruelling film I would never have seen if not invited by a dear friend, about five very young German children after the war forced to travel through a ruined country to safety. It was an excellent film, really about how Germans continued to deny what their country had done until the facts made it impossible to deny any more, and afterwards, the discussion between Eleanor and Seiffert was of course fascinating. The book is based on her German mother's story, and she told us about her mother's parents who were fervent Nazis. The evening ended with a very gloomy diagnosis of today, the rise of the far right and fascism; Sieffert said she felt we are in a version of the thirties. Very scary.

But at the same time, uplifting, because wise writers are making sense of it all with art. Going to the uncomfortable places, because that's the job.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Downchild Blues

When I saw the Toronto Jazz Festival was producing a free concert on Saturday - the Downchild Blues Band with guest Dan Aykroyd - I couldn't imagine where it was. The map showed somewhere on Bloor, so I imagined they'd taken over a small courtyard somewhere. But no - there was a stage right in the middle of Bloor Street near Avenue Road. Thousands of people gathered around, and the best, the absolute best music, raunchy, joyful rhythm and blues. Carol and I did not stop moving to the beat from start to finish.
A beautiful night, great music in the middle of the street - and then, on the way home, we could have walked down Church Street and immersed ourselves in Pride if we'd had the energy, which we did not. So much going on.

And ... an important realization about publication: in my typical fashion, I've been looking for a short cut, which has in the end wasted more time - sending the ms. to the wrong people who happen to be people I know. The only way forward is to submit: what an apt term. To send the thing out over and over again and wait to hear. Submission is how it's done, and that is what I will do. And I will look on it as an adventure.

So - as my beloved much-missed friend Wayson loved to say - Onward.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Write in the Garden July 21

Just received this email:
I attended a lovely summer writing session in a garden in the east end of Toronto years ago, I'm thinking in 2012 or 2013. After some sleuthing online, I think you might have been the person who hosted this. 

Are you still doing these sessions? I'm going to be in Toronto this summer and wanted to try and attend another session. 

You've come to the right place and yes, I am. Welcome!

marketing summer

Spring is over; it's summer, it's hot, and Toronto is overflowing with activities: this weekend it's Pride, plus the arts festival Luminato, plus the Jazz Festival and God knows what else - a superabundance of interesting things to do. Good times. Anna wanted to take the boys to Pride yesterday, so we arranged to meet on Church Street. Pride releases people's kinks in a way that can be quite shocking, so I wrote to her, "Are you concerned about what the boys might see?"
"We live in Parkdale," was her reply. Enough said.

And it's true, nothing astonishes her boys, who were more interested in the playgrounds nearby than in the nearly-naked people in bondage gear strolling around. Tonight, my old Ottawa friend Danny Aykroyd is fronting the fabulous Downchild Blues Band for a free street dance, and I might go. Though it doesn't start till 8.30 - pretty late for this old bag.

I am settling back into daily life in Cabbagetown. The winter is a blur, and much of the spring too - the reno and travels to Europe and Vancouver, the conference, finishing work on the house, teaching. My friend Carol, who lived upstairs on the third floor for 5 or 6 years, is visiting from her home in Ecuador for the summer, staying here this week and for the month of August. She is knocked out by the renovation. "You've improved things yet it's somehow the same, the character of the house unchanged," she said. She's out right now, grooving in the hot sun at Pride.

Mostly, now, my focus is finding time to get the memoir out, yet yet yet again. My student Margaret Lynch has taught me a lesson. She started writing in my class four years ago at Ryerson, took other courses and then the MFA in Nonfiction at King's, which does a lot to prepare their students for publication. She has since published a feature in the Star related to her memoir, which I wrote about here, and has had a piece on the CBC which was turned into a beautiful video'd interview with her.  

It's been shared thousands of times. This is known as building your platform, which is how you interest publishers. Her methodical approach to publication is inspiring. My approach is to run at it with my head down and try to crash through, as I do most things. Methodical is not a word in my vocabulary. To my chagrin.

So the process begins anew - preparing a cover letter, a précis of the book, a resumé about me, figuring out where these things should go. This is the part of writing that I hate. I HATE it. Marketing is one of my least favourite words, up there with the words Doug Ford. But unless I want to self-publish again, I have no choice but to do this tedious thing, sending and re-sending and re-sending. Trying to sell myself. Trying to build a platform.

My actual platform - the deck outside my kitchen - was taken apart this week to inject it with termite poison. There's surely a metaphor there.

However, in happier news: dancer Sara Porter, who's an editing client and a fan of my writing book True to Life, has written that she'd like to use my chapter titles as prompts, not only for writing, but for dance. She's thinking of using them in her next show.
Chapter 41 “Take your time”

Chapter 32 “Don’t be nice"

Chapter 31 “Try out your light voice”

Chapter 17 “Unblock”

Chapter 16  “Start anywhere”

Chapter 15 “Make it matter"

Maybe that's what I'll encourage my students to do: get up and dance. Works for me.

And ... Ben, who's 3, graduated from preschool last week, with a mortar board and diploma. Extremely impressive. And, if I say so myself, extremely cute.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


So this is something that has been reinforced this week: that we all pay a price for our decisions, one of the most important of which being where we live. My friend Chris has peace and ocean and glorious trees, but there's a price for living on an isolated island. My friends in Vancouver live in a gorgeous city with mountains and ocean, but there is a definite high price for choosing such a popular place.

And I came home to the price I pay - a very long list of all that has to be done in my house in order that I may live here. (Not to mention in Toronto, a fabulous city with its huge challenges.) The garden, in only ten days, has bushed out of control, and as I wrote before, the guy who used to help a bit has vanished. I could spend the next week just in the garden, but then there's the house. The roof and eavestroughs guy are coming tomorrow plus the window guys, Kevin coming Thursday to rip up my deck because the termite guys are coming Friday to finish the distribution of poison, which of course requires - ripping up part of the deck. I faced a huge load of laundry, because the people who rented here while I was away not only left sheets but every single bath towel. Why would people staying five days need six bath towels? When you get out of the shower, are you not clean? Can you not use the same towel once or twice?

Teaching today, tomorrow, Thursday. Recruiting for my garden workshop in July. Editing two U of T students, extra work that pays.

Worst of all, the biggest shock, another huge bill from the renovation, something I was not expecting related to the plans that didn't happen, thousands of dollars I didn't know I owed to pay for a failed plan. Truly ghastly.

So. Home. Gazing out right now at greenery, birds, flowers, veggies. But there is a price and sometimes, like right now, it feels steep. I came back from the conference fired up to write, but the house and life have once again taken precedence.

Ah well. First world problems. As one of the conference attendees said, to a writer writing about her upbringing in small town Ontario in the fifties, "Are you aware of your white privilege? Will you be writing about racial awareness?"

The author replied politely, "No."

My lettuce is bountiful. I'm going to pick some and crack open a bottle and a fresh avocado that I bought just down the street, because shops are nearby and easy to get to and cheap, and make dinner, and watch the last episode of "Gentleman Jack" that I taped, and not think about all there is to do. And then - I'll do some writing work. Yes we can.

Here is your faithful correspondent suffering in Vancouver.
Hideous Jericho Beach.

Okay, done and done. Go Raptors. Oh yes, they did go, and there were two million people on the streets yesterday to celebrate them, including my daughter and her boys getting a sunburn. Not sad to have missed that.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Conference finale

A quick word - I know this is Sunday, and it's still June, but otherwise I'm lost in a fog of conference. At the moment, though, in a UBC dorm living room looking out at mountains and ocean, a glorious view not much blocked by the building in front. My two roomies have departed already, as the main bulk of the conference is over, but I'm staying for the AGM this morning and the Shoe Project this afternoon - immigrant women who tell the story of their lives through their shoes. Then to Judy's for a debrief with the gang over dinner and a final night in Vancouver, home tmw.

We have been blessed in many ways - with, first, the most perfect weather imaginable, mild and sunny every day. This campus, surely the most beautiful in the world, and this building, where most of us lived and where our conference meeting rooms and meals were on the main floor. The attendees, a group of lively, intense nonfiction writers from across the country. The panelists and speakers, writers at the top of their game, sharing their knowledge and wisdom with us. More on that anon.

And some extras, including, last night, Sea Sick, a play by and starring Alanna Mitchell based on her book of the same name. A one-woman show of extraordinary impact, about her research into the devastation of the world's oceans, and eventually of the world, by fossil fuels. She manages to inject humour into the show, which is riveting, and to leave us with a message of hope, even as we acknowledge, with her, that the problem is much worse than we realize. The glass of wine afterwards was more than welcome, it was necessary.

Noon. Just back from the AGM and about to check out. I am now officially a board member of the CNFC. I love this organization and its people, so - here we go. I'm also on the conference committee for next year, and we've started already taking suggestions and making plans. New responsibilities, but also, great new writer friends.

Yesterday I met two of Canada's most interesting women - the Globe arts writer Marsha Lederman, who, when she interviewed me about Wayson, I told about the conference and who came out to UBC yesterday to interview Alanna and see the show; and Elizabeth Hay, acclaimed writer. Not to mention all the others. I'm stimulated and moved and only a little daunted by the work that's ahead.

But right now - out into the sunshine. Yesterday, I cut class - er, workshops - in the morning to walk to the Nitobe Garden here, a classic Japanese garden which in all my years in Vancouver I'd never visited. I needed time alone in green, and there it was, stunningly beautiful and quiet, no writers talking. We in Toronto may be the champions, but we have nothing like this.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

We are the champions!

Too much excitement. A fabulous dinner in a UBC pub tonight with a group of fellow writers; we sat outside as far from the Raptors noise and excitement as we could - but by the last quarter, tied, we had to go in and watch. Excruciating, back and forth, so close, and at the last few seconds, they kept calling time out. The tension in the bar was thick. Judy Rebick, famous Canadian feminist activist and one of our presenters who'd had dinner with us was a few seats away, watching with bated breath.
And then beautiful Kawhi pulled it out of the bag, and there we were - world champions. Toronto. Canada. Yes, they're all Americans, but still, as Margaret Atwood once said about the Blue Jays, they're OUR Americans. What fun!

Toronto must be going insane.

our creative nonfiction conference launched!

Sitting at the registration table at UBC, waiting for our writers to arrive. The weather is beautiful, our lanyards are laid out, the programs are gorgeous, and we are SET. It starts tomorrow, but we organizers started work yesterday.

Here we are preparing lanyards yesterday afternoon;
Before that, Wednesday, I had to leave the hallowed land of Gabriola and my dear Chris and his adorable pets. We had a wonderful visit.
The Gabriola airport - the plane is in the water
Sheba in front of the airport
The jumbo jet over - I sat in the co-pilot's seat.
Stayed last night at a friend's heavenly house right on the water - that's a hot tub in the foreground, where I floated last night watching the red-gold sunset over the mountains, the otters, seals, and herons fishing. Heavenly.
The magical city at dusk. When the sun shines, there is no city like this on earth - the roses! The mountains, ocean, trees, the sweet sweet air.

After our lanyard party with Prosecco, I had dinner with an old friend, a director from my theatre days in the seventies, and this morning, brunch with another old friend. And then out to UBC to start work. Tonight, the organizing group is having dinner together in a pub where we can watch the Raptors, if we want, Tomorrow the excitement begins. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

another day in paradise

I could not live here, I know that; it's an island, and islands make me claustrophobic. There are too many trees, which make darkness and shade. But Gabriola is, no question, paradise. My hardworking creative friend has found the perfect place for himself and is relishing every moment. And what a treat it is to relish it with him.

We go from pleasure to pleasure - from sitting in the hot tub on his deck - at least once a day together, though he does so twice - to walking on deserted beaches or walking in fields or woods or meeting kindly people. People wave here, to cars, to passersby. Congenial, open-hearted, rustic. Beautiful.

Last night, the most heavenly event - a picnic in Drumbeg Park with two of my oldest friends, Patsy and Chris. The weather has turned, the days are hot, and last night was sublime. We drank Prosecco and ate and reminisced and laughed, while watching the eagles and turkey vultures soar and two seals, and later an otter, fish in the water. It could not have been nicer. (click to enlarge)

Today, another busy day - talking, eating, walking. A drive to town. A walk on a beach and later in the woods.
A man and his dog - Sandwell Park
Another crowded beach

Later, we went to visit friends of his, a gay couple who have bought seven acres and are building a dream home themselves, with the most spectacular view and off-grid, run by solar panels. They showed me where the wine cellar will be and the guest bedroom. "Let's do a house exchange," I said, and when Francois found out I lived in Cabbagetown, told me he used to live just around the corner. I hope they come to visit one day.
The view from their porch. Can you imagine?
Their living room. They're going to plant an orchard and keep sheep. Now living in a trailer with their two whippets as they build. An amazing couple.

And then home to Violet Crescent to sit in the hot tub, drink wine, eat leftovers. Apparently we are going to meet Patsy this evening to watch the sunset over the water from the Surf Pub. Yes. Please.

I've been working and reading Middlemarch, also sublime. But mostly sitting outside listening to the birds and looking up at many 100 foot trees. Every muscle totally relaxed for once, this tense Toronto girl, listening to the wind in the branches. Thank you.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gabriola Island

Another planet - Gabriola Island, where the deer roam through people's gardens, the log cabins are plentiful, and the air smells so sweet and fresh it makes me want to lie down and snooze. My brain cannot accept this much oxygen. And maybe - maybe today - my weather bad luck will turn, and the sun will actually stay out. I've been joking that people should keep away from me, because wherever I go, rain and cloud will follow. Here too - it was hot until the day I arrived, Chris told me, and then - cloud and rain.

An easy flight in the float plane - filming much of the way to show the boys when I get home, skimming up and over the water, and 20 minutes later, splashing down in Silva Bay. Chris waiting with beautiful Sheba in the little red Fiat, like a mobile strawberry. His beautiful home, more lustrous since I was last here - he's done an enormous amount of work in the garden, as those who follow his blog will know. Everything serene and lovely.

So here we are. We had dinner with Patsy, one of my oldest friends - she threw my 20th birthday party in August 1970 at Dead Man's Cove, Nova Scotia - who has lived here for decades and has helped Chris's entry into island life. We went to town, with its 2 or 3 shops and restaurants, for groceries and lunch. We walked with Sheba on the nearby trail, and last night, we watched the Tony Awards. I usually watch them with Wayson so was happy to be with another of my very best friends. It was the best yet, extraordinarily diverse and interesting. This year, my ex, Edgar, was on the Tony nominating committee but not on stage among the winning producers, as he was a few years ago.

Today, another exciting day - dog walking, talking, maybe a picnic with Patsy and Prosecco. Though I'm giddy from fresh air and tranquillity, I've been working in the quiet, editing students and on the manuscript, the final final final draft, to go out again soon. And tonight - Go Raptors.
 The jumbo jet over - that's the pilot
A man and his dog
a shorn Sheba and gorgeous stripey spotted Ethel
Tom Thomson? Emily Carr?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Vancouver and Raptors

A glorious tree and rose I passed today in this lush city today. (click to enlarge)

Go Raptors! What an exciting game. I watched the last half with Margaret, who's a big fan. Heart racing. Not that I care, but ... it certainly is exciting. And it's nice to win.

Good times in Vancouver. A painless flight to get here; I worked on a big editing job the whole way, pattering on my computer until we landed. A beautiful day here yesterday; a long walk for me on Commercial Drive, and a lovely dinner with old friends. This morning, pouring rain, and I awake at 5 a.m. with jet lag. And paranoia. I had not heard from a dear old friend with whom I was supposed to have lunch today - had tried email and text and finally, the other day, a phone message at her office. Nothing; silence. So at 5 a.m. I wondered if I'd somehow offended her and reviewed what had transpired between us until I figured out what I had done wrong and wrote, in my mind, an email of apology. When I turned on my computer at 6.45, however, there was a long note from her; she'd been on one of the Gulf islands, had no internet and spotty cellphone service, so sorry, was devastated to miss our lunch, let's do it next week.

So much for Paranoid Pamela. There's a lesson here, but I will pay no attention and the next time this happens, I will again assume it's my fault. That's how we roll.

As soon as the teeming rain stopped, about 11, Margaret and I took the Skytrain downtown to the Van. Art Gallery, one of our favourite activities, though today there was no special exhibit and much of the modern art that was there I found ... uninspiring at best and an absurd waste of time at worst. An interesting exhibition, though, of modern photography from India; there was a fun "set" there of the kind of elaborate background Indian photographers used in the 19th century. Hence the two of us posing.
Took Margaret for lunch nearby, eating outside, then a bit of shopping, then off to meet Bruce. We spent the afternoon poking around Granville Island and had dinner on the island, again outside near the water in the sun, with the smell of the sea. Divine. Makes me so happy to be on my old stomping grounds. I lived in this picturesque city for 8 years.
Not in Milan or Bologna this time. And next he's off to China - without me! 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

a peaceful protest in the morning

At Pearson. My flight is officially at noon. 12.00 is on my documents. But when I got here, already very early, I see it's scheduled at 12.30. Two and a half hours early - something of a record. And on a stunningly beautiful sunny day too, whereas yesterday was the worst yet, dark and pouring all day. I got the house sparkling, greeted the lovely tenants, a couple of young musicians with their five-year old son who was thrilled with all the toys specifically for five-year-old boys. Set off for Ryerson with my suitcase and backpack, killed time there, taught the class, managed to get a cab to Anna's in the downpour, watched a bit of the Raptors with Thomas and Eli - they won! Slept in Anna's bed.

This morning, we were all up early to protest. She had to get her reluctant boys out of the door at 7.45 with their signs, for a school protest against Ford's vicious school cuts. How proud I was of her and her boys and the whole community - the picture below was taken early on but many more came, many cars honked in support as they went by. Of course, many did not. Then at 8.30 we marched around the block into the school where there was a singalong - the Queen Vic school, some Bob Marley. Ben said, "Are we going to sing Happy Birthday?"

Of course it brought tears to my eyes, such a beautiful sight, that multicultural crowd of parents, teachers, and children singing. Then my poor daughter began to sob; she'd been told that the three-year old son of one of the teachers had died the night before of cancer.

All that matters - healthy children. And their parents.

My father the activist, one of the leaders in the fight against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam war, would be proud of his granddaughter. It's haunting in her house - there's a painting done by my mother, my parents' cutlery, all kinds of shadows from the past.

So - onward.

 The Queen Vic song. The piano is painted on the radiator. So beautiful.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

on the road redux

From the "very nice emails to receive" department, this came in from a woman who took my course last term and was a participant in So True last week. Makes me happy to read her words.

I thank you so much for your encouragement and belief in me. The shame that I have long carried in association with writing is quickly being banished. Early on I was not considered creative and spelling was my nemesis (it still is but - spellcheck is now a thing). This meant I believed writing was not for me, even though I badly wanted to write stories. I can now see this belief was a result of the narrow constraints of the school curriculum and early teacher's opinions. I now understand that writing and storytelling is a skill that can be honed. Thank you for this gift. 

You're very welcome. That's what they pay me the big bucks for. LOL.

Last night, old and dear friends Suzette and Jessica came for dinner and to see the renovation, which they had both advised me about. We've known each other for a long time and had much to discuss - past, present, and future. A great pleasure.

Today, after teaching at U of T, I cleaned the house with Nicole. Tomorrow a family arrives to live here till Sunday. At 5.30 I'll go off to Ryerson with my suitcase and after class will go on to Anna's to spend the night, leaving from her place on Thursday for the airport and thence to Vancouver and a new twelve day adventure. I'd rather not, to tell you the truth, but there you go.

No, there I go.

The house is spotless, laundry done, I'm packed, have run the garden essentials by Shani from the basement who will water (if necessary, if it ever stops raining), Jade on the top floor will bring in the mail; let's hope this complicated little downtown ship keeps chugging along.

See you on the other side of the Rockies.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

celebrating Wayson

He was with us, no question, our dear friend. This morning was wet and grey with more rain predicted - and yet amazingly it got warmer and sunnier until by 2.30, when guests started arriving for Wayson's memorial, it was a beautiful perfect day. We could sit on the deck, as I'd hoped, the deck where Wayson spent many happy hours reading and dozing.

There were 16 people from all areas of Wayson's life - Joe Kertes, Wendy, and others from Humber, Elaine the jeweller who repaired hundreds of his crummy bargoon watches, Ray from his Vancouver days, Mary and Ruth who met him when he came to talk to my classes, and Annie, Jim, and Jean-Marc from various dinner parties here. Janet Somerville went to New York with him and told a hilarious story about trailing after him while he shopped for socks. We all told stories - about what a ham he was, a mesmerizing speaker, a completely trusted friend, a master teacher, funny, witty, kind, thoughtful, occasionally cruel or infuriating, as are we all.

I'd been disappointed Sam couldn't come because of the Raptors game tonight - he was called in early for work as playoffs fever hits the town. And then Anna woke up this morning sick. But our dear friend Holly was a trouper; she came over with Eli and was an enormous help, putting out food, pouring drinks, cleaning up. There was a ton of food and drink, ironically a lot of it wine and cheese, neither of which Wayson ever touched.

I wept this morning but managed to get through my own talk about him, reading his last email to me. I read emails sent by other close friends of his who couldn't get here today and a moving and funny tribute written by Sam, which ended You taught me patience and the importance of listening during a conversation. Or perhaps while I talked you were having a nap.

You are my mother’s calming presence. Except when you drive.

True! There were lots of jokes about his driving; we laughed so hard. It was all beautiful. I think we collectively felt a new kind of peace, that we had gathered to laugh and weep and remember together.
The back forty came together just in time.

He would have loved every minute. In fact, I'm pretty sure he did.

It's been a good few days. Student Margaret Lynch had a huge feature piece in the Star on Saturday about her miraculous survival of a deadly cancer, something she started to speak about publicly at a So True a few years ago. Another sent me a picture of the cover of her book: I'm excited to see it happening, mainly thanks to the influence of your class at Ryerson. Another wrote, I would love to come to your Garden Workshop again this year. It was a highlight of my summer in 2018.

Just a few minutes ago, a friend of Wayson's whose tribute to him I'd read aloud and to whom I'd sent the photos wrote (blowing own horn alert...) You did something very important and meaningful for all of us who needed to express our sorrow about Wayson's death, and our appreciation of his life. I am most grateful to you for allowing me to participate long distance. Your generosity of spirit is wonderful and meant much to many of Wayson's friends.

So though right now I'm drained, it was worth it. I often don't focus well sitting at a desk. But hosting an event - well, it must be the hosting gene I inherited from my dad and have passed on to my kids. It's a skill we all have. But it's work; though it's a pleasure it's also a job, and now I'm bushed.

Another Friend of Wayson to whom I sent the pictures just wrote, Wayson was such a special person and such a special friend. There will never be another like him. I miss him.

Me too. Me too. But today we did him proud. Margaret's note about him ended, I am reminded of Justin Trudeau's eulogy of his father when he referred to Robert Frost's poem and stated that his father, Pierre, had kept his promise and earned his sleep.

So have you, Wayson.

Janet just sent this, from their trip to New York.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Write in the Garden July 21

A one-day writing adventure.
Inspiration, structure, and support for those with lots of writing experience and for those with none.

Spend a summer day learning to trust your voice and tell your stories. Listen to your creative self. Gain confidence and perspective from friendly contact with other writers. Write in the garden and enjoy positive feedback, bushy perennials, and lunch.
Who: Writer and teacher Beth Kaplan has taught writing at Ryerson for 25 years and at U of T for 12.
Winner, Excellence in Teaching award, U of T, 2012.
When: Sunday July 21, 10.00 a.m. to 5 p.m
Where: Beth’s secret garden in Cabbagetown.
Laughter, camaraderie, and insight guaranteed.
For more information -
To register –
Cost: $165, including food for thought and actual food - and wine. Register early; registration is limited.

“Glorious stories, a beautiful setting, great food, a garden to die for.” - Kelsey Mason
Just what I needed to get started writing again!”  - Pat Broms
“Beth has a special gift for creating a safe learning environment, with a well of positive things to say without passing judgment. It was a joy to be there with her and the others. Her garden is magical, and she created a magical day for me.” - Ann C.