Saturday, October 16, 2021

last night reflections

This is definitely the smallest room in the Sylvia Hotel, but it has everything I need: wifi, bed, window that opens. I've just had dinner downstairs with my dear friend Margaret, who's living a nightmare right now; her beloved husband of many years, afflicted with Alzheimer's, is now in hospital and not understanding why he is there. Many decisions to be made, and she with her own health issues. Luckily their sons live close by and help. She showed me phone video of her granddaughter, who's just learned to walk. "It was worth it, having kids, wasn't it?" I cried, and we both laughed. She and I were pregnant with our first together, lumbering around downtown trying to imagine what it would be like to be a mother, to have an actual child. Not to mention two. 

And yet, we did it, and now they are - sometimes - there for us.

It was pouring so hard today, it was hard to see a few feet in front at times. Shari went for a swim in the heated outdoor pool at the lodge, so I took up the challenge and went too - a few minutes in the pouring rain, in the pool and hot tub. But getting wet both in body and on head was too much wet for me.

We listened to nonfiction readers read on Zoom this morning, and this afternoon went to an in person workshop by kind, warm Darrel McLeod, a Cree teacher and writer from northern Alberta. Again, nothing he said was new to me - in fact, some of the exercises he gave are ones I give my own students - and yet hearing it all from his lips made it new again.

As we left, I was given the envelope with critiques of my memoir from the initial reader and the two finalist judges, which I read to Shari as we sped down the mountain in the downpour. The first reader got it, totally; I love what s/he said. The other two had praise and some legitimate concerns which is why, I guess, it didn't win. 

Also that I'm sure dog sledding in the north, on the frontier, is more exciting than eating cheese in Provence. 

I don't care. It's been a powerful journey for me, here; despite the bad weather of the last few days, I'm so very glad I came. I will be so very glad to walk in my front door and drop my bag and get into my own bed. And for the first time in many days, make my own coffee in the morning. Shari has a special method to make her fabulous coffee. But time for me to make my own. 

One of the most transcendent memories of the trip for me was sitting on Chris's deck in the sun, watching on my computer a video made by Lynn's children to commemorate her and Denis's 50th wedding anniversary. One daughter lives with her family in Mauritius, another in Australia, another in Marseille. One appeared at their door as a surprise with her 3 children, and their son participated in the Zoom call secretly from Heathrow, on his way to join them as well - all of them there on the screen, telling stories. Fifty years. I was there at the start, at the wedding. Hard to imagine we're that old. But we are. 

I don't feel old tonight though, I feel rejuvenated - by trees, air, water, mountains, book talk, and most of all, the joy of friendships begun long ago. 

Thank God I bought waterproof hiking boots and a down vest in Whistler; kept me alive here. Here's upcoming Toronto weather. I am so ready.

Mainly sunny


Mainly sunny

Friday, October 15, 2021

not this time

Dear friends, Yellowknife author Fran Hurcomb's memoir about dog sledding, Breaking Trail, is the winner of the 2021 Whistler Independent Book Award.  She has had an extremely adventurous life in the north; I was freezing just listening to her read last night about breaking trails in minus 30 degree weather. Brava to her.

Thanks to everyone who sent their thoughts and best wishes. Save them for next time. 

It's over, and that's a relief. Of course it's disappointing. But I do not for one minute regret coming, mostly because of the bond I've made with Shari. We've known each other for decades, but this is the first time we realized how very compatible we are, with similar lifestyles, goals, and even grievances; she hates vocal fry and uptalk as much as I do. 

I've visited good friends, I've seen a lot of trees and @#$ mountains, I've met some nice people. I didn't win a prize, but I did, too. 

Fran's dogs
Consolation prize - framed
An avenue this afternoon

So - a few workshops tomorrow that I do not have to participate in, and we're off. I'm in front of the fire in my pjs, with - you guessed it - a glass of wine. Happy camper. Onward.  

winding down, winding up

Pouring today so sticking close to base camp. 

Last night was the reading event for the Whistler awards: the three nonfiction and three fiction finalists meeting for a late lunch and then reading from their work and talking to the audience, two on Zoom and four there. The magnificent ballroom at the Chateau Fairmont was full of book-lovers with another 40 attending on Zoom. I always take these things very seriously, had timed my talk and reading to be under the required ten minutes. I was told afterwards that the fact that I'm funny and good at public speaking was appreciated.

All my books sold out instantly. Mind you, since they're heavy I'd only brought five and could have sold double that, if not more. Hope the audience will do what they said they'd do and buy online. They seemed keen. 

And then home by shuttle in the rain, where Shari had made a salad for supper, and a glass of red wine awaited me by the sort of fire. 

Today we attended a Zoom session about publishing, which would have been interesting if we didn't know anything about this subject, but we do. I went to the Audain Gallery which has a stunning collection of First Nation artefacts - masks, blankets, bentwood boxes - and paintings by Emily Carr and other West Coast artists and, later, photographers. A beautiful gallery, all glass and wood. 

A stunning Tlingit blanket, circa 1870. How could they weave something so delicate and complex that long ago?
A modern wall-sized sculpture by James Hart
An unusually bright Emily Carr. She so rarely uses light colours, as she often painted deep in the woods. 
A modern totem pole made of golf bags
A little park that looks like an Emily Carr painting come to life. 

The award event is in a few hours, followed by a taped cabaret. Tomorrow, my last full day, a few more sessions, and then my friend and I hightail it back to the city. I've realized I'm not crazy about mountains.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Whistler Writers Festival begins

Shari and I are joined at the hip, sisters forever. We had a wonderful time chez elle, spending Tuesday evening watching the first two haunting episodes of Maid. And then, ironically, she had a lot of cleaning to do; friends were coming to stay while she's away. I dusted and she vacuumed. It's a big house. 

Wednesday midday we got the noon ferry to the mainland, drove to her musician daughter's in North Van to pick up a laptop she'd forgotten, then did a U turn and headed to Whistler, in the mountains, and what a spectacular drive that is. Whistler is a sports resort - hiking, skiing, boarding. There's more snow, every day, moving down the mountains, and it's colder than I'd anticipated. In fact, the whole trip has been colder than I'd anticipated. I've been wearing layer upon layer – an undershirt, a thin turtleneck, a t-shirt, a cardigan, a vest. Ridiculous, but necessary. And my ridiculous rain boots. 

But no more, because there's SHOPPING here! Heaven. On sale at The North Face, I bought warm, waterproof hiking boots, long johns for under jeans, and a down vest with a hood. Plus gloves not on sale but terrific. I'm fully equipped for BC, a few days before I leave. 

Shari and I should be hiking, but I'm here to work, and so is she. We're in the perfect place, a one-bedroom suite with a kitchen. She brought enough food for a large crowd, so no restaurants for us, we're eating home-cooked food in front of the fake fire which glows red and make the room cosy. We watched Roadrunner last night, a documentary about Anthony Bourdain — despite the huge successes of his life, a man afflicted with the black dogs of depression and addiction. Not a happy story, but poignant and compelling. 

Today is the start of the event, for me. There's a lunch reception for the finalists to meet each other and the producing team, and then a reading event where we all have ten minutes or so to talk about and read from our books. This makes it a show day, for me. I will attempt to look presentable in the flimsy clothes I brought, with my new vest for warmth, and have at last figured out which very short passage to read. And I have a bottle of French Côtes du Rhône ready for when we get back here in front of the fire. 

Lucky. Blessed. Grateful. A bit chilly, but what's new?

PS I was so busy in transit yesterday, I forgot it was my son Sam's 37th birthday. I know he'll forgive me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

On the way to Whistler

A quick hike in the rain forest this morning while the sun was almost shining - slippery when wet

Can't get enough of this view ...
... from these windows.
On the ferry from Bowen to the mainland
Freezing!! BFFs since 1975, like Chris. She was 23 and I was 24 when we met. And we're just the same now, only waaaaay smarter. 

Bowen beauty

Just photos today - more words anon.  

The ferry from Nanaimo to the mainland.
The view yesterday afternoon from Shari's living room on Bowen Island in the rain
The view this morning - a brief lifting of the clouds before the rain comes back until Monday. Snow on the mountains for the first time, Shari says. We leave today for Whistler where it may actually snow. And me with only my red rain boots. Stay tuned. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

farewell to Gabriola

Part of Chris's living room. Our view at the Surf restaurant at the start of dinner. The two of us at the end, after pumpkin pie - friends since 1975. 

There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed.

Today, my last day on Gabriola, I told Chris there have been 3 places I've visited regularly in my life that I think of as heaven. One was my uncle's little hotel the Kingsley Club on the semi-deserted east coast of Barbados, where the dining room was open to the breeze and birds flew through. We visited 3 times as a family; my kids were young but when a tour bus came through, Loris let them help behind the bar, opening soft drinks. Maybe that's where Sam got his love of serving.

The second was the small apartment on the rue Claude Bernard in the Latin Quarter of Paris that I rented 3 or 4 times from friends, with a huge south-facing window that opened onto a courtyard and heavy shutters that swung closed at night.

And the third is here, Chris's house on Gabriola, the one big room inside with his stone fireplace, the fire always going, and everything - even his plates and cutlery, his pots and pans, let alone his decor items - beautiful, and trees trees trees trees trees. 

My uncle sold the hotel, my friends sold the Paris flat, and one day, perhaps, this big property will be too much for Chris, and I will once more be exiled from occasional visits to Eden. But perhaps not. 

Yesterday was visit with Shari day - walks in the woods and making meals. 

In Chris's courtyard in front of one of his out buildings - his studio. Showing Shari his huge garden.

I roasted a chicken and veg for our dinner, and we had a long meal with intense talk of adoption: Chris was adopted at age two by a dreadful couple and found his birth mother when he was in his forties. Shari - it's no secret, she sings about it every concert - had a baby boy when she was 15, gave him up for adoption, and found him when he was 40, in a very happy reunion. So they were on opposite sides, the baby given up, the mother who had no choice. 

Shari left at dawn today. While Chris went on his dog walk, I danced with Nicky Guadagni's group in Toronto. 

Chris and I later walked again in Drumbeg.

Now I'm outside tapping and sniffing the crisp, smoky air, and he's watching the Great British Baking Show, one of his faves. Tonight I'm taking him to dinner at the Surf, which overlooks, surprise! - water, rocks, and trees. Tomorrow I walk onto the small ferry from Gabriola to Nanaimo, walk or cab to the big ferry terminal, walk on for the two hour ride to Horseshoe Bay outside Vancouver on the mainland, and then wait for the next ferry to Bowen Island, where Shari will pick me up. A three ferry day. It's predicted to rain from morning to night. 

Boo. But that's life on the rain coast of Canada. Salut. A bientôt. 

PS In the middle of this idyllic retreat, my FB Messenger was hacked. Friends sent me screenshots of someone pretending to be me sending messages. My friend wrote back, "I don't think you're Beth," and the hacker replied indignantly, "I Beth." Today, he wrote to someone else, pretending to be me, "Did you see the Fox news?" I guess this person doesn't know me very well. 

No. I Beth.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

quiet pleasures

A silent Sunday - and I confess that I'm congratulating myself for my luck, in having the most interesting friends who live in the most gorgeous places. Chris has made his home into a kind of paradise. And now Shari Ulrich is here. She brings another kind of joy.

Shari and I met in 1975 in the Kootenays. A supremely talented vocalist and instrumentalist, and beautiful, she was one of the touring trio Pied Pumkin. I was an actress with a band of lunatic hippy musicians and actors called the Valhallelujah Rangers, after the Valhalla mountain range where we lived. Where I lived briefly, for a summer and fall, fleeing back to Vancouver before winter fell. 

Shari, still performing, writing, and recording her own songs, now lives on Bowen Island. She decided visit us on Gabriola and while here, do a house concert last night. Wherever she goes, local people sponsor an event; people pay what they can and all proceeds go to Shari.

She was invited for dinner first, and so was I. So interesting to see another Gabriola house and find out about the owners, who sponsor all the musicians coming here. And then, after a great meal, to sit in a warm living room and hear this sublime musician play mandolin, piano, violin, several kinds of guitars, and harmonica, making us laugh while she switched or tuned. Some of her songs are heartbreakingly personal and moving; even if I didn't know her, she'd feel like a friend by the end. And then back to Chris's in the island dark, in the smoke-scented air, to sit by the fire, stroke pets, talk. 

The nights - so dark, so quiet.

Yesterday it rained much of the day, but today there's sun. Sunday is the big dog walk, an hour and a half on a trail with 15 or so ecstatic dogs, tearing through the brush, playing, wrestling, dashing off on a scent. I walked at the head of the line in order to leave some of the chatter behind, most of it about dogs; I wanted silence. The trees - what to say that's not a cliché? Sentinels, majestic, towering, magnificent. And moss, carpets, cloaks of green. It's a rain forest, after all. 

A birch grove.

Home to make lunch - a salade Niçoise since Shari, like Chris, is very careful about what she eats. Tonight I'll cook a Thanksgiving chicken. 

Toronto feels very far away - as it is. I could not live here. I couldn't bear to be stuck on an island, dependant on ferry schedules and far from many amenities that - even if this past year I haven't used them - are a necessity to me - theatre, music, and more. But visiting here, as perhaps you can tell, is balm for this city-stressed woman. With very good taste in friends.

Friday, October 8, 2021

visiting Patsy

Just have to post these right away. A moving day in the sun.

Chris and the dogwalkers
Where we walked ...
Fred the beautiful Bengal
Sheba the adorable
We visited the Gabriola Cemetery to visit Patsy. 
Is this not the most beautiful place to find eternal rest? 
Drumbeg Park
A man and his shadow
Chris's house
Fred and Ethel.

Happiness is. 

West Coast pix

Sitting on the seawall, watching the rain over UBC. (Click to enlarge.) 
O Canada. It's October.
Where Edgar and I lived when Anna was born - Grace Court in the West End, on the third floor on the right. 40 years ago; an incredibly happy time. I visit it every time I come to Vancouver. 
The ferry to Granville Island
Another ghastly Vancouver scene
My mother's name was Sylvia - and today, October 8, is her birthday. She would have been 98. 
The view from the Sylvia restaurant
People are building inukshuks - stones piles on stones - everywhere. 
Sigh. What we miss in cities: a vista.
The South airport
Ryan the pilot
Landing in Sylva Bay. The most beautiful day for a flight.