Friday, July 31, 2020

last post in my sixties

I am 69 right now, at 9 p.m. on Friday July 31, but tomorrow, Saturday August 1, I will be 70. Each decade has been like this; it sounds impossibly old until one is in it, and then it just feels like - like Saturday.

Just back from two days at Monique's cottage. We are so incredibly lucky in this country to have wilderness, or relative wilderness, with gorgeous lakes and dense woods an easy drive from our cities. I understand why people flee to these places, and I regret that my children did not have that experience growing up; I didn't have a cottage as a child in Nova Scotia, and neither did my then husband in B.C., and with his demanding job and our lack of money, buying a cottage was a non-starter. But I see what huge value for kids - getting away, even from the internet, to a place where all there is to do is to swim and play in the woods and play board games and read and be together.

My friend and I had a great time; she has a floating dock that at 5 we loaded up with our aperitif drinks and snacks and then pushed out, like Venetian gondoliers, and sat floating in the lake, jabbering in French and drinking rosé, while the loon family, parents and two babies, dove and sang their quavering song not far away. It was glorious. O Canada. This morning, Monique took her coffee and phone to the dock while I stayed ashore with my camera. And then later took the next shot. The sky!

Now, home. Robin kept the garden alive though there's work to be done. It feels crowded and so narrow out there after the cottage, but still, it's beautiful, and there is rosé, and there is HBO: Monique is coming over at 10 to watch Bill Maher with me.

Birthday wishes are coming in from dear friends by email, mail, e-cards, and a package from Lani I get to open tomorrow. There's much to say about life and work and love and time and - But all I'll say right now is: I'm grateful that I'm alive and you're alive and there is so very much to celebrate on this magnificent, flawed, crazy planet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Cottage time

Your faithful correspondent will be offline for a few days - going to Monique's cottage tomorrow till Friday night. She doesn't have the internet, and I don't post from my phone. Can't believe I'm actually getting out of town - the first time I've gone more than a few blocks from my house, except across town to Anna's, since March 13. Soon driving three hours north.

Speaking of Anna's - today I went to swim in Sunnyside pool with her and the boys. There's all kinds of protocol now, of course, including time-limited 45 minute swims; they have to leave and line up again, so she goes usually for two sessions. Her boys are like seals, like fish, like marine mammals, Ben especially, at just five, doing a powerful breast stroke underwater with no goggles. A marvel. And then - our annual tradition - I took them and their friend Imani to the restaurant on the boardwalk by the beach. They're driving to Nova Scotia next week and I won't see them for a month!
Last night I watched a doc about Maria Montessori and her ground-breaking innovations in the education of children - an amazing woman. They showed her at seventy, and I thought, that's the way seventy used to look - thick solid body, grey bun, glasses, classic grandma. But that is not, I repeat not, what seventy looks like any more. It looks like a grey-haired grandma in Sunnyside pool, laughing as her grandsons cavort.

It's a wonderful time. The book is at last on its way into the world; I posted a pic of the cover on the Creative Nonfiction FB page - on Mondays we are allowed to do a bit of hustling - and 70 people have liked it so far. I find the speed of that astonishing. My attempt at zucchini sex, plunging the male pistils into the female flowers, has produced two big zucchinis. And on Saturday morning, my son is arriving with everything for a very small garden party to celebrate this old bag's 70th.

Got to go pack - flipflops, sundress, b'suit. Rosé and cucumber salad made with my garden cukes. Robin upstairs will be holding the fort. My shoulders are lifting. A bientôt, mes amis.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Wayson comes to visit

The loveliest thing just happened. This morning I sent off the last notes on the galley proofs, am waiting to review those changes and the cover copy, and then that's it: the book is ready to go to the printers. I started writing this story in 2014. I know, it's faster than my first book, which took 25 years from start to finish, but still, my slowness is remarkable. Got to speed up; times a'wasting, you old fart!

But after sending off, I realized that I'd repeated myself. At the end, I write a summary of various characters in the book, including my parents, of whom I write that they are much missed. And then in the Acknowledgements, I mention various friends, including "the much-missed Wayson Choy." Must not repeat.

So I changed it to "the inimitable Wayson Choy." He is much missed, but he was also inimitable. As I was sending the change off, I noticed a magnificent, huge swallowtail butterfly outside my screen door. It hovered, swooped, landed on the dill, on the gardenia - the gardenia that was a present from Wayson; it flew off and came back, only a foot from the house, over and over, for more than ten minutes. If the screen had been open, I think it would have flown inside. That has never happened before, that a butterfly stayed so long and persistently.
It fluttered so on the other side of the window, I couldn't get a good shot.

Wayson's symbol was the butterfly. I have no doubt that was my friend, come back to let me know how glad he is the book, the slow progress of which he followed, is finally finished, that he's proud of me and happy to be part of it.

I'm a sceptical atheist, but I know that my beloved inimitable friend Wayson visited me today.
This says 'female.' Wayson wouldn't mind.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Loose Woman" galley proofs

This is the experience, surreal, exciting, scary, that every writer lives for: seeing their words in the form of a book. I'm reading the galley proofs of Loose Woman, trying to see my words as strangers will see them. But also, for a memoir writer, there's the realization that strangers will be delving into the intimate details of your life and mind, your very soul.

Luckily, no one is around and I can sit on the deck. Yesterday my neighbour and her bellowing boyfriend were out, so I had to sit inside with my noise-cancelling headphones. Tonight, blessed silence on all sides. Just the computer with its precious cargo - MY 79,000 WORDS! - and the notebook for jotting mistakes or changes - a few, not many so far - and beyond, the great beauty of the garden. It's a great moment, my friends, and a week before my 70th birthday. This book celebrates my 30th, when my life as a wife and mother and writer began.

I was awake at 5.30, got up at 6, tried to nap later but could not, so I'm not sure how long I'll last. It's 6.30 pm, I've had dinner and two glasses of rosé, and I'm on Page 103. Not quite half way through. Have to say - it has made me laugh out loud three times, and cry twice. And I know the story. Though maybe I know it a little too well. It made my eyes well up just to see it, professionally laid out, my child all gussied up and ready for her close-up.

Maybe I'll go for a walk to stir my pooling blood and keep myself awake. More than 100 lovely delicious pages to go.

Friday, July 24, 2020

We have a winning cover.

Have done almost nothing for the past few days but sit on my bum and email, emails flying back and forth except when we're telephoning. Nothing happened to this book for months, and now, suddenly, everything has to happen this weekend. Two days ago the designer Meghan and I talked about conveying movement, dancing, joy, colour. So she sent a cover:
which Jason, my trusty assistant and taste monitor, and many others didn't like. Back and forth - what did we want, what was possible within timing and budget (including free stock images like this) - what colours, images, fonts, upper or lower case, centred or not. The designer sent another one that was very stark and dark, looked like an earnest poetry collection. Back and forth - let's open up the font, the size, the colour palette. More back, more forth.

And we ended up with a winner:

I spent yesterday and this morning going over the proofs, accepting or rejecting edits - deleting a bunch of fiddly commas, arguing with the publisher about paragraphing. "Not negotiable!" he wrote, so he won. Had to write cover copy, author bio, and dedication, and edit the blurbs. All have gone to Meghan. Managed to fit in a walkabout with Debra, who'd made me a beautiful new mask, and a chat on the deck later with Carole, my dear Y companion.

Tomorrow I hope to have the document back for one final pass, however long it takes, and then, if all is well, it goes to the printer Monday. Hope to be holding a book by the end of August. We'll make plans for some kind of Zoom launch in early September. And then, of course, vast wealth and fame will at last be mine. Mwa ha ha!

And then it will be time to start something new.

PS Channelling the very stable genius who is President of the United States, my friend and student Brad just wrote, "Person.  Loose Woman.   Man.    Camera.   TV." 


Thursday, July 23, 2020

a prisoner of comfort

I'm so excited - today's home class is going to be a hybrid, some students on Zoom and some HERE AT THE HOUSE! We are planning to be outside or inside distanced if it's raining; so far the weather is perfect, cool and grey but not wet, though that could change. I've not seen these people in person since March - they were here the evening of the last day, Thursday March 12, before everything shut down.

My hands tingle all the time now - I guess because of all the hand washing. I have hand cream scattered about the place to try to keep them from shrivelling into desiccated claws. A fresh pandemic joy. Recently, I was going through old notebooks and found one from the years I was trying to find places to live or at-home help for my mother and her sister Do - lists of residences and what they offered, names of government people to contact ... Just seeing it brought a wave of nausea. It was an anxious time. I'm just so grateful, as I've said before, that those two strong old women did not have to go through lockdown and that I don't have elderly residents to worry about.

However, more excitement: a chunk of time yesterday was spent deciding on the cover for the memoir. Yes - the cover! I had a Zoom call with Meghan the designer and Jason my friend and trusty assistant, who knows all about design and fonts and colour; it was amazing, she shared her screen and worked her magic, changing fonts and colours and sizes and shapes in front of us. In the end we had the concept, just a few details -  colour mostly - to work out; I hope to get some prototypes today.

And I just heard from the proofreader, who has nearly finished. It's happening, folks. The slowest book in creation is finally emerging from its shell.

Last night I watched a documentary about Giacometti, explaining his power, his place among the greatest 20th century artists - his figures are stripped bare, nothing extra, just the essence of what it is to be alive. He lived as he worked - even once his art was commanding huge prices, he lived in the same squalid Paris apartment, caring nothing for money. When asked why he didn't find a decent place to live, he replied, "I don't want to be a prisoner of comfort."

I looked around. Yes, Alberto, I sighed. I am definitely a prisoner of comfort.

I also watched part of a doc about phenomenal shapes in nature, which included icebergs, sand dunes, mountains, and the manatee, which is a relative of the elephant and has the vestiges of toenails on its fins. How I love PBS and TVO!

Today I had a Zoom consultation with Tova who works at Artbooks, a company that does taxes and finances for artists. She was a writing student of mine years ago, and today she told me her mother later took the class and loved it. I wanted advice about the complexities of my finances - part self-employed writer and teacher, part landlady, part teacher employed by the universities. What can I claim? Etc. At the end of our talk, it almost made sense, though not quite. She wouldn't take payment from me, so I urged her to write something that I'll edit. "Explain money," I said. "Explain what it is about finances and taxes that you find so satisfying." I hope she does, because I think a lot of people would like to know. At least, I would.

Have hardly been outside my door for days so no photos except, as always, the garden. I know, you've seen it before and you'll see it again, but it's so lovely, I have to keep sharing it with you. The Rose of Sharon - what a showoff! You'll be happy to know that after my efforts at pollination, there is one, count it, one zucchini growing. But as always, cucumbers dropping from the sky.

Time to tidy. The garden and I are expecting guests.

Monday, July 20, 2020

zucchini sex

What a difference a day makes! Full steam ahead today. Most importantly - I HAD FORCED SEX WITH MY ZUCCHINI.

Yes, this morning I saw, at last, an open female flower. Immediately I seized a male flower, ripped off the petals and stabbed the stamen with its pollen into the female's opening. Graphic and satisfying. Let's hope out of that mass of foliage there emerges at least one edible vegetable. In the meantime, the cherry tomatoes are coming, the beans are nearly over, the cukes are delish, and all without parental intervention. What is wrong with you, zucchini?

And then I tackled the lists - made important but boring calls and fertilized the flowering plants by watering can which is heavy work. I did not do Gina's line dancing so as not to distract myself from the task at hand. At 2.30, a Zoom piano lesson. At 4, my first official meeting with Jason, my -- assistant? Consultant? Sounding board? Someone who cares if I'm writing and what I'm writing and where I'm going as a writer. At last. He and I talked about the next book but also a podcast, an audiobook, tech issues I could not figure out, and other vital matters.

I told Monique he might be right for her too, as she works to develop her teaching-French-to-anglos website, so he went next door afterwards, and she came immediately to me to say - he's perfect. A new career is born.

In the meantime, the work on the book is getting there - I hope to have both the proofread copy and the cover design, or at least a beginning toward it, by mid-week. Tomorrow, a Zoom call with the designer.

And then after another glass of rosé - it was a 3-glass evening for me, in celebration - Monique and I went into the garden and picked and ate raspberries. Sixteen degrees tonight! Life, for this one brief moment in the chaos, is perfect.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sunday doldrums

Was lying on the kitchen floor this afternoon at the start of Jane Ellison's Zoom class when the storm began - an instant flood of rain, a crack of thunder, violent and loud. Ran around shutting all the windows and worrying about the downspouts. Now the air is sweet and fresh, and everything is watered. Hooray.

On Friday, across town by TTC - people mostly masked but some defiantly not - to Ben's fifth birthday party with just a few of his friends. Usually Anna has invited half the planet; it's amazing how much easier it is with 4 from one family. There was, however, as always, a delicious meal and then chocolate ice cream cake. I gave Ben a blue ukulele.
That night, I started to watch Amadeus from the National Theatre but didn't like it much, too much busy melodramatic talking through the divine music. I have very fond memories of the play, which I, pregnant with Anna, saw in New York on New Year's Eve of 1981 with her father. She started to kick for the first time during the show; I thought that meant she'd love classical music. That turned out not to be the case.

Instead of Amadeus, I watched another episode about Macca. Yes I did. Music also divine. "Frank Sinatra's party" - another toe-tapping Macca earworm, I cannot get it out.

Yesterday, Saturday,  I have no idea what happened. Oh yes, Jean-Marc came over with fresh scones and we had coffee on the deck, and later Monique invited me for dinner on her porch with an old friend of hers. And in between I sat in my office, where now the door can be wide open because of John's screen. And I did something there, though what is a mystery. Sorted. Moved paper around.

Oh, also, I had a long talk on the phone with my son about an issue that arose between us. How grateful I am that he's a man who TALKS. Who's honest and brings thing up, which allows the air to be cleared.

I had a long list of things to do today and did almost none of them. Truly, I have no idea what happens during the hours between rising and going to bed. I make lists and ignore them. There are newspapers and New Yorkers and books to read, and food prep and cleanup and gardening, of course, watering and pruning, and ... A bit of piano, perhaps a walk or a bike ride, emailing and FB, and then it's bedtime. Really? You're soon going to be 70 and that's all you accomplish in a day? How much longer do you think you have on this earth, to diddle around this way?

Mary Trump has done the planet a great service. Her uncle is disintegrating. Imagine, at last, the virus is something he can't lie or buy away. Though God knows, he's going to try.

It's so quiet out now, at dusk, under a pewter sky tinged with pink. Barely a sound, a blessing. The air smells of summer after a storm.

Tomorrow is Monday. Tomorrow I'll tackle the list and get things done. Yes I will.

A recent Zoom screenshot selfie. Look at the depth of that line between the eyes; how I wish I could erase it. What I fear most, however, is wattles. Alzheimer's, and wattles. In that order.
A better selfie:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

the deep water test

Before everything, the best news: Ben wanted to take the deep water test, almost exclusively for older kids, at the public open air pool where they swim. That's 50 metres of uninterrupted swimming. Ben is small for his age which, until tomorrow, is four. He passed. They are forces of nature, both of them. Bravo, young man.
Showing their pool armbands, with a mouth full of Goldfish. Would you want to take on this level of tough determination? Good thing their mother is tougher.

A blessedly gloomy day with sprinklings of rain, just what the doctor ordered. The air smells of everything good in the cool damp. Gratitude.

On Tuesday, I Zoom taught the group of last term's U of T students who've continued to meet and want my feedback. And then to the farmer's market at Riverdale Farm, opening for the first time this summer with new rules: line up to enter, walk only one way, wear masks, squirt hands. Lots of lovely stuff including a middle Eastern couple selling hummus and spicy flatbreads. Very glad to be there again.

Two huge treats on Wednesday - first, out to the Beach, carrying my bike on the TTC, to visit my beloved Annie and her husband Jim, who've just moved to a rental house near the boardwalk. It's the perfect place for them, a charming house with tons of light and a huge deck filled already with Annie's plantings. She and I rode our bikes to Ashbridge's Bay, to the secret beach she knows of there, for a swim in the cool waters of Lake Ontario, and then back to the house for lunch on the deck. A dear friend happily settled; a lovely time together. A swim.

Home again on the TTC, where almost everyone is in a mask but there are a few die-hards without, including a marginalized women shouting about a grave injustice from 1974. She should write a memoir, I thought, as I moved far away.

And then Jason came at 5 for both a personal and a professional visit. Anyone who's been to my reading series So True knows Jason, the cheerful M.C. He was my student more than a decade ago and has been a dear friend ever since, and now, I've hired him as my media/tech/future projects consultant, to help guide me through the social media/online maze. Jason is in his early forties, so the ideal in-between age - not as old as I so savvy about these things, but not as young as my previous assistants, in their twenties, who couldn't understand why I didn't understand. Jason didn't grow up with social media but he's comfortable with it, so he's half way between me and the kids. Ideal.

But yesterday, there was also something horrible. I got embroiled against my better judgement in a battle on FB, once more writing in support of J.K. Rowling, and was slapped in the face by the way issues are handled there. I realized finally - I'm out of my league. I am not used to ranting battles taking place publicly and with such unbridled vitriol. Devastating. I withdrew and deleted what I'd said, which was me trying to be reasonable, urging people to look at both sides - that's not how things are done there. I felt physically assaulted. Never again.

But yes, Juliet, I am still on FB. It's an addiction, like cocaine, and I love it. I can follow the lives of many of my friends in real time, read various newspapers, follow many writers' websites, learn stuff I didn't know. It's just important not to engage with the mob of woke banshees. I hardly ever post my own stuff, though I repost a lot. But I love to read.

Today's interest was a FaceTime consultation with Arlene who runs the Backyard Urban Farm Co. I held my phone up in the veg garden to show her the squash and the raspberries. She suggested cutting back the many big leaves of the squash so the pollinators can find their way in and improving my soil all round. Compost! Micro-organisms! I felt like a schoolgirl faced with her expertise - but then, in the garden, I am.

And then John arrived with a screen. There's a door in my office that for decades has had to be kept closed because it doesn't have a screen and I don't want birds and bugs flying in. I asked John about a solution, and a day later there he was with a Bugs-Out screen with a magnetized opening that he stapled to the door frame. A $50 solution, giving me much more air and light. Hooray!

May you all be safe, wherever you are. May you be well and find air and light. May a good friend come over to help you figure out where you are now and where you want to go. May you have a cool refreshing swim and even, best of all, may you pass the deep water test.

Monday, July 13, 2020

"Jesus Christ, now what?"

How I love my friends and blog readers. Thank you all! After my last post, I got such lovely replies. Isobel's note made me laugh out loud.
Thinking of your latest blog post when I saw this: 
“I don't know about other people, but when I wake up in the morning and put my shoes on, I think, Jesus Christ, now what?” 
 Charles Bukowski 

He kind of nails it eh?

He certainly does. Me too, Charles, me too. (Met him when he came to Vancouver, fascinating reprobate that he was. He put the make on me, told me I reminded him of a young Lauren Bacall. Good line, buddy. I was having none of it.)

Carol wrote from Ecuador:
Take all those essays and make them into a book! You are a writer, a teacher, a thinker - a person who embraces life! There needs to be a record of all that - a collection of your essays - part of a lifelong endeavor in your craft, needs to be out there with your other works. Think of it as creating a healthy reading list for the future generations who will be studying your work once you are long gone.

I wrote back, Sure, an essay collection, just what the world is waiting for! But ... it's a good idea.

And Lani wrote from Ingersoll, Ontario:
Your blog today certainly coincided with my mood lately. I did NOTHING much for the past few weeks except berate myself for doing nothing. I blame the heat but I'm sure a lot of it is this isolation. You, on the other hand, are still doing tons of stuff - teaching, being a Glamma, a mom, a landlady, a friend, a writer and a musician. So relax, my Bethes. You are fine.

Thank you, dearly beloveds; it did me much good to hear from you today.

Other wonderful things that lifted my heart: I saw the goldfinch again! A few days ago he flashed by with his lemon yellow feathers and I thought he was just passing through, but he came back. And I think I saw his mate too. Lynn sent me a picture of what Mrs. Goldfinch looks like. Could she be more beautiful? Is it not a miracle that so many such creatures exist in this world? We must do everything we can to protect them. How can we protect them?

Speaking of beauty to protect, more pleasure today: a Zoom coaching session with a former Ryerson student, aged 27, a keen reader and writer raring to go. Love is.

This morning, a visit with old friends Anna and Tom, in for the day from Stratford. And tonight - be still my beating heart - I watched part of a five hour documentary about Macca. FIVE HOURS! I just watched the first two. It starts at the end of the Beatles and goes from there. Hard to believe how vicious the critics were about his first solo albums; Rolling Stone editor Jann Venner, a huge John fan, the villain here. They dismissed everything he did. And yet he persisted. The two conclusions of the doc: 1. He is a very nice man. 2. He is a musical genius.

Well, duh.

Dusk, cool, quiet, the pale mauve phlox and orange lilies and white jasmine and purple clematis glowing in the fading light. A sole bird chirping. I have no idea what I'm doing with my life, but - tomorrow I will wake up in the morning and come downstairs without shoes and drink coffee and say, "Jesus Chris, now what?" And something will happen.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

moaning on Sunday

A lovely lovely day. And yet - what did I do? How is it now 6.30 p.m.? How is it now mid-July 2020? I do not understand time.

Okay, so I'm still alive and so are my family and friends, that's a big win. What should I have accomplished? Well - starting a new book, that's the big thing. Or a series of essays, or even one essay. Instead I've been reviewing the number of essays I've already written and wondering what should happen to them. I have no idea. So why write something new? No idea. I bought a year's subscription to Medium, an online magazine that accepts submissions, and have no idea how to proceed.

However, good news. Someone has rented the apartment downstairs for August, and now someone else for October on, at least for a few months, possibly for longer — a couple who sold their Cabbagetown house to move to the country and now miss the neighbourhood and the city so want a pied à terre in town. Could not be more perfect. Let's hope it actually happens.

So that's a huge relief.

Here I sit writing to you - I who have barely been outside these walls for weeks, no, months. An occasional sortie to the grocery store, that's about it. I did go to the veg garden first thing this morning with Q tip in hand, ready to pollinate my female squash plants, only - they're all male! I found one female flower and she had been devoured by something. It's a fraternity back there. I wrote to Backyard Urban Farm Co. and will book an online consult with them about squash and raspberries.

And while I'm at it, the birds have refused to eat the seed from my feeder for weeks. I cleaned it out and put in fresh seed - nope, they would not come back. It's like the Little Free Library - you attempt to do something for your neighbours but it costs. The Library, incidentally, is fine - the guy who used to steal all the books has moved on. But the missing birds - why, I ask, WHY?

Okay, so I've kept myself fed, and the house more or less clean, and I do exercise every so often, and the house runs, and the piano gets practiced a bit, and emails get answered, and yes, I'm teaching two courses via Zoom and working now with three editing clients. Picked my first perfect cucumber today, and many beans. But still - it's a whole day, 12 hours or so. What happens? I read articles about productivity all the time. But I am not productive.

I do, however, check FB and Twitter regularly, and the papers and the New Yorker. I am up to date with what's going on in the world. I think.

Oh, and yesterday I took a webinar from the Writer's Union of Canada about taxes for writers, which turned out to be taught by Tova Epp, a writing student from long ago, a lovely woman whom I remember fondly and who had lots of good advice about taxes.

In a few weeks I will be seventy. Is it time to roll the bottom of my trousers? Will the mermaids sing to me? I think being more productive involves lifting my bum out of this comfortable swivel kitchen chair with its view of the garden and going upstairs to my office. Aye, there's the rub.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

sexing the squash

Again, today, blessed rain. After Wednesday's storm we went back to extreme heat, but there's relief today for both people and plants.

Nope - it's an hour later and it's hot sun again. Sun sun go away! More rain please.

Just talked to my son the bartender, who's back at work in a tense environment - they're very busy, distanced outside; he wears a mask (in the heat which feels with the humidity like 40 degrees), washes hands constantly, no menus, people order from their phones - they're doing their best. But a neighbour place just had a bunch of cases and had to shut down again. I've invited him for dinner, but if he comes, we will be sitting far apart.

On Thursday, spent the afternoon in my friend Lynn's sublime swimming pool that's like a little lake, sheltered by overhanging trees. On the crowded bus back, though, did not enjoy the company of so many of my fellow Torontonians, masks and all.

I've been enjoying online theatre -  the Apple family from the States, monologues from Britain - clever clever stuff being done by creative people using what tools they have, like YouTube and Zoom. Much admiration.

My daughter and I are battling about political correctness, the Harper's letter, and J.K. Rowling, on FB. We adore each other, but on FB, we are polar opposites duking it out in this public forum. An interesting modern dynamic.

Oh, and about the garden: my squash plants are enormous but there are no baby squash appearing. I went to Dr. Google - apparently I have to pollinate them myself. Using a Q-tip, I have to take pollen from the male plant and pollinate the female. Mon dieu - my squash are binary and cisgender. I want squash that can pollinate themselves!

I have no wise words today about pandemics, isolation, creativity, focus, social media, cancel culture, our poor neighbours to the south, our foolish PM's carelessness. On today's list: have sexual relations with squash, pray for rain. Busy busy busy.

PS Who knew these plants had such rigidly defined gender roles? I was just out sexing them, but I'll need to pollinate early in the morning; all the flowers are shut up tight. I'll harvest a few flowers to eat as well. Farmer Beth. Amazing.

Today's treat: Macca with two kittens and Martha my dear. He became a farmer too. I heart.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

rain at last

Thank the good lord, it's raining. Thundering, actually. If there's one thing the people and gardens of Toronto need right now, it's a good soaking, after many days of torrid, possibly record-breaking heat. My only concern is that the epsom salts I sprayed on the raspberry leaves last night might be washed off, and I'll have to do it again. Otherwise - rain on, McDuff, thanks.

As I write, my neighbour and her boyfriend are outside under their deck umbrella. His voice is so loud, I can hear him clearly, every word, even through thunder and downpour and my closed doors. Amazing. What lungs, that he never stops talking at the top of! I wonder if anyone has ever asked him to keep his voice down - can he possibly have gone through life bellowing like that? Perhaps a lack of awareness that there are other people on the planet, with functional ears? Let us ponder. If it goes on, I'll have to block him out with headphones, as I do now on a regular basis. And then there's the cigarette smoke. I know. First world problems.

Yesterday was a busy day, Covid-style. At 3 I had a phone call with an editing client who is starting a new book. At 6 an appointment at the Y to pick up the stuff in my locker; they let me in through the staff entrance, masked, and I traipsed through the empty building, so silent, the floors shining. It made me sad. I emptied my locker because we have no idea when the Y will open - when it will be safe to go there.

At 7 I took in the friend of a friend's book launch on Zoom, and at 8 I attended Ringo Starr's 80th birthday party on YouTube with a group of his talented friends, including Sheryl Crowe and, of course, at the end, Macca - at least, Ringo drumming "Helter Skelter" not long ago with Macca. Ringo is a sweetheart, everyone seems to love him, including his grandchildren and - yes - his great-grandchildren. He's 80 and rocking; puts my own upcoming 70th in perspective.

And then the last two hours of the doc on women's suffrage. Canada granted women the right to vote two full years before the U.S. did - and how close the vote was there, even at the end. But when I looked it up, I saw that France and Italy didn't grant full suffrage till 1945! Unbelievable! And of course many Muslim nations only a few years ago. Strongly religious countries, it seems, are not fond of liberated women. What's sad about the tale in the U.S. is that the organizers of the movement were forced to choose between suffrage and racial justice - because white women who wanted the vote did not necessarily want to share that privilege with African-American women.

It's still pouring. He's still shouting. Time to practice the piano - make some loud messy noises of my own.

Here's your treat for the day - the new profile picture of my handsome boychik. Aka the giraffe.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Sorry in summer

Yesterday I emailed a friend who lives on a farm in Prince George and has a big raspberry business. There's something wrong with my raspberries, I wrote in despair, do you have any idea what this is? And sent pictures of the yellowing striated leaves with brown patches, the shrivelled fruit.

She thinks it's a magnesium deficiency, and the cure is a spray of Epsom salts. "And afterwards, you can have a bath in them," she wrote. I'm off to Shoppers to buy Epsom salts for my deprived raspberries. What a wonderful world.

Yesterday was my father's yahrzeit - July 6 the day he died in 1988, 32 years ago. I celebrate every day the gifts he gave.

How I wish he could see another form of his legacy - his great-grandsons, including the one who looks a great deal like him as a boy. Eli and Ben rode over with their dad Thomas yesterday, all the way from their house to mine, a long hot ride. Tall 8-year old Eli has done it before, but Ben is four, and a small four at that. But tough as can be, wanting to do everything his big brother does. Thomas gives him a push every so  often, when he tires. They spent the afternoon here, with lunch and then to the splash pad on Wellesley, hours of delight.

And for me too, as I sat watching children scream with joy under the sprinklers. Around me the parents - one a trans man with many tattoos and a pierced lip, beaming as he guided his tiny daughter to the edge of a puddle; a mother with the sides of her head shaved, a naked woman tattooed on her back, and many cutting scars on her thighs; a Black family, an Asian family, an East-Indian family, all the children a multi-coloured blur of activity. Ben never stopped running.

A game of Sorry to cool down,
and then to the new ice cream store on Dundas East for  their second ice cream treat of the day. What are Glammas for? I had a Muskoka Mocha cone, delish. And then, after an exhausting afternoon of running and shrieking, they set off, riding back across town. Very tired when they got home, another gift for their mama, who was grateful for some time off.

And I watched a PBS documentary on suffrage for women. I knew about the suffragettes but didn't know quite how brutally hard it was to convince men to allow women to vote. We take so much for granted. But I do try not to take anything for granted. Especially them. And this.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

the bliss of haircuts and Hamilton

Not my happiest place, inside in the AC, but better than the alternative, the suffocating heat outside. Soon it'll lessen and I'll go water the parched garden. It's rosé time, solitary today.

Yesterday, to the market; at 7.45 a.m., there was a lineup outside that moved quickly. Such deliciousness inside, all local.
Though, feeling guilty, later I also went to NoFrills and bought cherries from Washington and mangoes from Mexico - but I promise, I will only buy local produce now till the end of summer.

A few hours later, Helene, a friend of my former hairdresser Ingrid who has closed down her business, came to cut hair in the garden. She does hair for film and TV, and she cut my hair and then Monique's. What a lovely place to have a haircut, on the deck under the pergola. And now my head is lighter. The first time since February! Never has a haircut been so welcome.
That night's treat - I borrowed Anna's log-in and password for Disney+ and watched Hamilton the film. I saw it on stage when it played here in the winter before theatres closed down, and marvelled at its ferocious energy and confidence, its eclectic musicality and originality, overwhelming, breathtaking. Despite the historical complexities it details about the creation of the United States of America, which we Canucks don't know much (or perhaps care much) about, I felt that again about the film. My ex told me recently that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the phenomenal talent who wrote the book, lyrics, and music and also starred as Hamilton for some time, is now a billionaire.

The music! I have "The room where it happened" on the brain and can't get it out! Just one of the best musical moments ever, yet one of many. I defy you to listen to it without snapping and tapping and wanting to dance.


This afternoon, Jane Ellison's 1 1/2 hour class, then cooking some stuff from the market while listening to Eleanor Wachtel. And now the heat has faded, I can open the doors and go water. Only 20 tonight. Tomorrow, only 31. It's going down.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Les Blancs, and scams

I'm on interminable hold with Visa, with that horrible music playing; I was stupidly scammed twice in April, buying stuff to help Anna with the boys - a bouncy castle and a table pingpong set, both, it turns out thanks to my friend Google, scams. My kids tell me Visa sometimes refunds those purchases, so it's worth a try, though they make it as painful as possible to wait. Of course they do.

What's weird is that a tiny package arrived from China today with a cheesy bracelet inside, worth, it says on the package, $5. Maybe there's some law that even if you pay for a bouncy castle, if they send a $5 bracelet, they can't be charged as scammers. Who knows? The description of contents is "hand catenary sofa cloud made with magnets." Aha. That helps!

I thought that I should write something about turning 70, so I started to compile a list of all the ways I've been lucky in life, and then of all the ways I'm not so great. More in the first list than the second, happily, but it's an interesting exercise. I told Monique about it yesterday, and she said, for the second column, "You're too nice, you don't set limits, and it's too easy to take advantage of you."

Yes. True. Viz: sofa cloud made with magnets. But there are plenty of worse flaws on the list than gullible. On the plus side: first of all, being white, female, healthy, smart, half-Jewish half-British in heritage and Canadian in citizenship, with a sense of humour. Can't beat that for lucky genes.

The heat wave continues - we're all stuck inside, it's just too damn hot. 35 degrees yesterday, around that today, to continue into next week. Much much watering to do. Poor garden. But first thing in the morning, before the inferno, it's paradise out there; I do my morning inspection, floating through my personal park. Talk about lucky! Picked rhubarb yesterday and made rhubarb-mango compote for my friend Rosemary's visit, but she cancelled - too damn hot, particularly for someone with a heart condition. So I'll have to struggle to eat it all by myself. Lots of beans and lettuce still, too. Cooked some beans with cherry tomatoes and garlic. Lucky.

Tonight's treat: Anna has shared her Disney+ password with me, so I'm going to watch Hamilton again, this time with Lin-Manuel. The show here was so good, I can't imagine the original being much better, but I'll see. Last night, Les Blancs from the fabulous National Theatre in London - an extraordinarily prescient, timely play by Lorraine Hansberry, finished after her death by her ex-husband - a powerful exploration of the legacy of colonialism in Africa. A bit melodramatic, but a true drama in the best sense of the word.

Joyful news: my friend Margaret in Vancouver is now a grandmother. Son William and wife Christina just had a daughter, Faye Catherine. Margaret and I were pregnant together, with Anna and William. The world moves on to the next generation, and the next.

And then, there's this. Yes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Canada Day - a silent celebration

Canada Day, 2020. How infinitely lucky I feel to live in this country, to have lived here almost all my life. My daughter would be the first to point out Canada's flaws, and there are many, no question. But to me, our namby-pambyness, our colonialism, our forms of racism, are outweighed a hundred times by what is good here, most of all, right now, a sense of shared responsibility for our fellow citizens that is so very lacking to the south of us. The ferocious American need for individuality is what has made their country great, and what is destroying it right now: an inability to see that one small action, say, wearing a mask, may be uncomfortable for the self but is necessary for the greater good.

Thank God, again, for Tommy Douglas.

Mind you, I went this morning to a place I call Planet Rosedale; my friend Carole, teacher of my favourite Y class for 30 years, held a Canada Day class in a park in Rosedale, a 15 minute bike ride away. Rosedale, a 'hood of unimaginable wealth, is barely on earth, as far as I could see - mansions, wide streets, enormous old trees, this lovely, beautifully maintained park - I think my grandsons from Parkdale, with its cluttered, filthy streets lined with often angry homeless people, would be bewildered here. I couldn't help but think, as I rode along the smooth, freshly paved roads, about how ghastly the streets are in much of the rest of the city - along Gerrard to the south of me, for example, barely navigable, so pitted and rutted. But in Rosedale, for some strange reason, magnificent boulevards of fresh flat asphalt.

Inequality war aside, the class was fun; I was the least fit, but no matter, we were together. Carole had posted exercises on trees so we went from tree to tree, doing sit ups and pushups, and I, avoiding any running, though the others were keen. We have missed each other and our routine.
The city and the 'hood are quiet today, on this holiday. I am waiting for the new tenant to arrive, a young woman who'll live downstairs for the month of July. Final shop yesterday to replace the missing towels and bath mats. The place is gleaming.

Yesterday Annie came for lunch - a salade niçoise with green beans and lettuce from the garden, and of course rosé. We watched a webinar together put on by the Friends of Allan Gardens, about pests that eat vegetables. There are so many! I'm terrified. But I've ordered some "food friendly diatomaceous earth" which will fix everything. Stay tuned. Oh, and he also said - apply fertilizer in the morning and kill bugs at night. Your tip of the day.

RIP to Carl Reiner, a happy, loving man who made the world a better place. Listen to his Shakespeare!
Thank God for Tommy Douglas and comedians.

Happy Canada Day to you all. May you have many good laughs today. And so, on into mine.
Carole. She's the grandmother of three grown women and has run 50 marathons. (Hint: She's bionic.)

PS. And she just wrote to say that those roads in Rosedale were just as pitted as anywhere else until recently. I'll take her word for it.