Tuesday, August 16, 2022

giving blood

This was my FB post today:

Beth Kaplan

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Funny story. Went to donate blood for the first time today. Answered 'no' to all their questions, including whether I'd had sex for money and had handled monkeys recently. One yes: had I lived in England from 1980 to 1996? Yes, I said, I went to theatre school in London in 1981-82. I'm sorry, she said, you cannot donate. Mad cow disease. I left and texted my kids about my rejection. Sam wrote back, I knew something was off with you, Kaplan - mad cow disease! Then Anna wrote, Mum, we didn't live in London in 1981! Oh yes — she was born in Vancouver in 1981. I was at theatre school in 1971-72. Went back and explained I was wrong by a mere decade. We laughed. Completely screwed up their paperwork but finally they took my half-litre of blood. I was so impressed by the steady stream of volunteers. I gather in the US, donors insist on being paid. I love Canadians.
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Monday, August 15, 2022

The joy of music and shelves.

A treat from the city: rode to the new parks on Parliament Street because there's music almost every afternoon, and sat for an hour listening to fine young cellist George Crotty play by heart four of Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites. Busses, trucks, and cars roaring by, passersby paying not the slightest attention to the world's greatest music pouring out in the middle of Parliament Street. 

Thank you, George. What a feat. I've just finished reading The Great Passion, by James Runcie, set in J. S. Bach's home and bringing to life the circumstances around the writing of the magnificent St. Matthew Passion. Anna Magdalena, his young second wife, is a major character. I loved being at home with the Bachs and their many many children. 

Music also last night - went with Annie to hear friends of hers, musician actors who used to sing as Sweet Lips, perform in the courtyard of a condo building downtown. A perfect evening, with fun quirky songs like Jacques Brel's. Except I confess I left at intermission, had had enough, wanted to walk home to watch the final Grantchester, which was completely ridiculous and predictable and formulaic, but forgiven. Terrible what TV writers can get away with when you're fond of their characters.

Thomas came to assemble a small Ikea shelving unit and do other fixing around here. I'm like Eeyore with the empty honey pot Pooh gave him for his birthday, putting things into it and taking them out - I'm putting things on my lovely new shelves and moving them around. I don't think I've ever been so organized. Should not say this because something's undoubtedly coming to knock it all over, but except for my office with its piles and boxes of papers, the rest of the house, for the first time in my life, is relatively under control. 

Little Miss Organized is going in for dinner: grilled salmon, ratatouille made with garden veg, fresh corn with lime. Peaches, many peaches. Summer. Halfway through August already! NOOOO. 

Sigh.

Visiting too often lately:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

RIP beloved Sempé

Listening to Beethoven piano concerto #3 on CBC - what pleasure. Jonathan Biss, marvellous pianist. They're saying he suffers from extreme anxiety. If I had to perform something that difficult, I would too. 

A tranquil day. My son and his pup may come to visit, the electrician Mr. Wu said he'd fix some wiring, I'll cook listening to Eleanor, do some work. Write to you.

The sad news is that the great French artist Sempé has died at nearly ninety. His work was unique, exquisite, with a joyful sweetness and innocence and yet a clear eye on human foibles and foolishness, but always with love. I have two framed prints and New Yorker covers and books. The only artist comparable is perhaps Steinberg, also marvellous, but who did not have Sempé's celebratory kindness. Thank you, Sempé, for all the pleasure you gave.

Me.

A time that does not exist any more. They'd all be facing a screen playing video games.

Two mornings ago, there was a mouse in my sink for the second time. The poor things must jump down to see what's there and can't get out. I trap them in a glass and release them at the end of the garden; undoubtedly they just come back, because there are droppings on my counters and stovetop. Yesterday, Thomas came to help with various things, and we pulled out the stove and blocked the hole where we thought they were accessing the kitchen — thick cardboard, steel wool, tons of duct tape.

This morning, there were droppings on my stovetop and, for good measure, a half-chewed cherry tomato. Back to the drawing board.

My brother sent two pics this week.

A street in Tel Aviv. Ah, fame.

It breaks my heart this portrait of my dad is hanging on some stranger's wall. And, yes, that my brother and I sold it for so little. However. Mistakes are made. C'est la vie.

Last night I started to watch Belfast and just couldn't. Could not watch neighbours murdering each other for some arcane difference in religion. Changed channels and watched a new doc on Diana, which is footage and voices, no commentary, about her too-short life, an indictment of celebrity culture, the vicious aggressive British tabloids, the media in general. Cried at that, instead, at a shot of Harry's agonized face as he looked at the mountains of flowers, at again watching those boys walk behind their mother's coffin without an arm around them, a hand to hold. The rich are not like you and me.

Doesn't life feel like this sometimes? 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

power outage in Toronto

 5.45. No power. No electricity. The power went out at about 12.30, so over five hours so far. Worried about the fridge, trying not to open it. My phone for once was not charged – now at 17%, so I don’t want to text or check email. A panicked search for matches through junk drawers and tool chest before finally finding a book of matches from one of my son’s restaurants at the back of a desk. Candles ready, one flashlight working.

Apparently ten thousand downtown Hydro customers are without power, including U of T and MTU, the Eaton Centre, the city’s financial centre. People were or still are stuck in elevators. I went for a walk in the ‘hood and talked to a man in a wheelchair at the corner of Carlton and Parliament, watching the amazingly orderly chaos of cars navigating a busy intersection without streetlights. 

“I live in a high-rise so can’t go home till the power comes back,” he said. “I’m waiting here to see a crash."

The power remained on north of Carlton. Another planet. I know this happens often to my friend Chris on his island in the Pacific, but rarely here, in the metropolis. 

Blessings: it’s a lovely evening, not too hot. I’ve had for many years and barely used a fabulous device called the Eton Emergency Radio, which works by hand-powered crank. So I’m able to keep cranking up to listen to the news and hear there’s a downtown power outage caused at the waterfront by a crane dislocating some hydro wires, and they don’t know when power will be back. 

I had nothing scheduled, so don’t have to get anywhere - Anna said, come over if you want, but the last thing I want is to try to get across town. I can sit on the deck and read. There’s lots of freshly-made gazpacho in the fridge and bread and cheese. The main problem is getting stuff out of the fridge and closing the door as quickly as possible.

No landline. No TV. Luckily, CBC radio through my hand crank. I realize once again, as with the Rogers outage, how much we take for granted. What if this goes on? 

You’re safe, you’re home. And just prior, you’d emailed two essays to a magazine and picked a fresh cucumber and a pile of tomatoes. And now I'll go back out, with warming rosé, to read. And wait.

6.15. Listening to CBC’s The World at Six as I crank the handle. The world’s miseries: punishing heat in Europe, Trump, doctor shortages. Could be so much worse here. My house grows darker, the fridge warmer. But there’s water, and a roof, and a relatively sane society. Safety. I know, my daughter would say, safety for YOU, Ms. White Privilege.

7.45. Went to my neighbours Mary and Malcolm north of Carlton, who had power, to charge my phone. They gave me a glass of wine and said, Stay as long as you want. An hour later I heard that power was mostly back on and left to see if it meant my house – and it did. There’s light. The fridge is humming, I’ll check tomorrow to see if anything has gone bad. Life goes on. 

We are so dependent.

I kept this "diary" on Word on my Mac, and now I can share it with you. Because the internet works, and the light I'm writing by. 

We are so dependent. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

complaining about Toronto drivers

OOOF. Got my second Shingrix shingles vaccine yesterday at a time when I had no appointments, in case it hit me hard, and it has hit me hard. Yesterday was okay, but today, I'm achey and fluey and capable of little. This too shall pass. I went back to bed and watched another episode of Borgen. Which is definitely not a flattering portrait of political life. Luckily, it's not infernally hot today, as it was over the weekend. It's heavy and grey, threatening to rain but not actually coming through. 

On Sunday afternoon, I cooked vegetable soup with the one big zucchini from the garden, and Jean-Marc came today to help me eat it. Very healthy and delicious. David Attenborough says the planet is being destroyed by cutting forests for grazing cattle, and we all must cut back on meat. Yes sir. Will do.

I also spent all day Sunday writing an op-ed for the Toronto Star about speeding cars in the city - out of control and dangerous. Worked and reworked from morn till night, got feedback from Ruth and Annie, eagerly sent it in. Nada. Not a word, just as both the Star and the Globe ignored the last essay I sent them. I know this business is about rejection but sometimes it gets depressing. Besides that one, I have four other essays out, and the book with eight publishers.

Nada.

But the Globe did say yes, the garden is beautiful, and Donald Trump is one step nearer accountability. 

I've long said Trump is Pandora. He has lifted the lid and enabled human vileness.

PS Just spent half an hour filing a police report about a driver speeding in a black Range Rover, top speed on Spruce St. where there's a school playground, and then the same guy zipped through a stop sign without stopping or even slowing. I followed him and got his licence: CSSN 040. That's why I wrote the essay - because this kind of heedless driving is an epidemic all over the city. I guess not of concern to the Star.

But I can always cheer myself up:

Friday, August 5, 2022

Summer bliss, new rules, Green Planet, how to wear socks

Just came back from a walk after dinner as the day cooled down. Riverdale Park west was a crowded, busy scene from William Kurelek - dogs frolicking, people biking, running, lying on the slopes, two baseball games going, that quintessential North American sound of the crack of the bat. I watched as, like the ocean, the outfielders moved in for a female batter and back out for a male. 

Today I set a new rule: no social media (or Wordle) before 5 o'clock, when I stop for rosé. Before, with coffee and cereal in the morning, first I read the Star, where today there was an article explaining that socks are back in style, "How can I wear them?" with helpful pictures, including a pair of Balenciaga tennis socks for $175, thanks, Star. Then, after learning valuable things like how to wear socks, I'd check FB, Twitter, IG, and my website, and read some of the news and writer sites flooding my inbox — just to be sure I'm not missing anything, mind you! — and before I knew it, the morning had gone. Instead, today, I got up to my desk — eventually — and actually worked.

Checked Zoomer magazine's submission page and found, by chance, that in 2020 they reprinted a short 2018 article of mine. Nice to be hanging around.

https://www.everythingzoomer.com/arts-entertainment/2020/03/08/how-to-write-your-memoir/

Tuesday went to Toronto Lynn's to float in her glorious pool like a little lake, surrounded by trees, flowers, rocks - heavenly, since the day felt like 37 or so. Wednesday, watched the last episode of The Green Planet, a fabulous and moving doc. David Attenborough for the Nobel Prize! The footage of plants doing what they do is spectacular. This one showed people finding ways to regenerate nature, holding out a little hope for the planet's future. Much needed. 

I've also been to the doctor and the dentist this week, getting the 72-year-old machine checked out. Functional. All teeth there, and at least some of my brain. 

Now, except for a few editing clients, I have weeks clear of teaching responsibilities. TIME TO WRITE. Which means, first, getting to the desk. As someone posted on Twitter, Today I asked a 10-year-old girl if she wanted to be a writer. She answered: "I want to do the thinking part but not the writing part."

So she's already a writer.

And then, there's the other distraction ... 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

They say it's your birthday, you're gonna have a good time ...

I've said this before, but ... sometimes FB is a most wonderful addition to life. 51 birthday greetings yesterday, from Halifax friends I've not seen in over four decades, to recent Toronto acquaintances and every era in between. It was like getting an overview of a lifetime of friendship. John Wright whom I acted with in Vancouver in 1978 and have not seen since posted this:

Mon dieu! Sunflowers for Ukraine, I hope. 

Plus email greetings. My ex sent a video of him singing Happy Birthday. He doesn't take singing lightly, so I was honoured. I also got effusive birthday greetings from loving companies: RBC, Aeroplan, Body Shop, and a place where I had a facial ten years ago. Nice that they think so kindly of me. 

The day started with two special hello's: one from a mother raccoon and her three babies, who climbed over the fence onto my deck, stood to check me out, and then sauntered off through the garden. And then the William Morris rose came back out to beam at me, just in time. 

Usually at these events, Sam barbecues, but as he cooked he always drank a beer or three, so now we don't barbecue, and we don't drink either. He is 4 1/2 months sober and doing amazingly well, but we don't want to make it harder for him by drinking in front of him. So I wanted all the food to be ready. Using tomatoes, cukes, basil, parsley, mint, dill, and chives from the garden, I made: cucumber salad, tomato-bread salad, potato salad, tabbouleh, pesto pasta, and a giant "BLT salad" with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and avocado. Just had to put them all out at the last minute, and heat up burgers for the boys. And then chocolate cake from Daniel and Daniel. 

A wonderful group, dear friends and beloved family dining in my back forty. Chaos, with two small boys and one growing bouncy dog. They all brought flowers, but my best present was a pastel painting by Eli.

A leo for a Leo. Such confidence, no? 

Seventy-two. I am blessed to have friends in their eighties. Ruth wrote and called me "you young thing." I'll take it.



Sunday, July 31, 2022

Nowhere Special

Hot with a glorious breeze. Rosé on the deck in the shade. Sublime quiet, though on the other side of town it's Caribana, with a million people celebrating Caribbean culture for the first time since 2019. My daughter is there; her sons are with Ben's dad this weekend. She got her nails done in extravagant colours and told me she was going to dance her ass off. As you can see, Anna is her usual surly, joyless self. If only she knew how to relax and have a good time! LOL. 

I confess I've never been to Caribana, never seen the Grand Parade except on TV. Standing with a million people in the hot sun, even for fabulous music and costumes, not my idea of a good time.

What IS a good time: watching a good film starring a great actor. My friend Chris found out how to access James Norton's new film Nowhere Special, and I watched it last night. The delicious Norton achieved stardom as the hunky minister in the first seasons of Grantchester, and he's been touted as the new Bond. But in the film he's the scruffy working class Irish single father of a four-year old; he has no family and terminal cancer, needs to find a new home for his boy. Sounds like a tearjerker, and there were tears, but Norton is powerfully restrained and the boy playing his son is incredible. The film made me overwhelmingly glad I was able to watch my children grow up, and if luck is with me, my grandsons too. It's a film about love and parenting - as powerful an evocation of the love between parent and child as I've ever seen on screen - and community; many kind people help. 

I did complain to Chris that Norton's character is utterly perfect as a father despite his own difficult childhood, patient and loving every minute, and he also has perfect teeth. The chances of a Belfast window washer who grew up in foster care having perfect teeth are nil. But be still, critical spirit, and celebrate a lovely film.

Yesterday Nicky's dance party was entirely Beatles. Help made me cry, the desperation in John's voice, their harmonies, their brilliance. What a birthday gift. I turn 72 tomorrow. Hard to believe. The roses have started their second blooming just in time, thank you. I just wrote to a friend that if I were younger, I'd have a podcast and try to be in a writer's room for film or TV - so many exciting possibilities for a young writer/performer these days. 

But despite being on the slippery slope to oblivion, I'm glad to be 72. I'm still neurotic, impatient, anxious, but less so than before, and with so much to celebrate. So much luck. Right now, the wind in my neighbour's giant mulberry tree, the tomatoes ripening, perhaps the cardinal will come to bathe. Friends wanted to come over tonight but I put them off, want to be alone for this last bit of 71, to relish the silence, the rosé, and the roses, the grand good luck of being alive.

I know, the world is in dire straights; so many are suffering. It feels obscene for me to sit enjoying a cold drink and the sweet air in my garden, the monarch butterfly on the scarlet geranium, the miracle of this little machine that enables me to communicate with the planet. 

But I am. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

summer pleasures

Well, the Pope sort of came through and sort of didn't. Or majorly didn't. But it was a start, a big start at acknowledging the hideous harm done by the Catholic church to Indigenous peoples and especially children.

Speaking of starts, something interesting: I wrote a story during my garden workshop and decided to keeping working on it. It turned into an 1100-word essay about my mother's obsession with antique English silver spoons, and I decided to send it to the First Person section at the Globe. In the 90s and early 2000s, scores of my essays appeared in that section, then called Facts and Arguments, but when they stopped paying a measly $100, I stopped sending work in. (And recently turned all those essays into a book, now out looking hungrily for a publisher.)

But that Globe space is still one of the best venues for personal essay in this country, so what the hell, I sent it, and two days later they took it, it'll run end of August or early September. That was fast! If only publishers worked as quickly.

A busy week. Janet, the friend of a friend, lives in Quebec and wanted to visit Toronto, so she rented my spare room for five days. And now she's my friend, too - a most interesting woman, an immigration lawyer with thousands of incredible stories. Yesterday, a particularly lovely evening, she suggested we go out to the Beach and stroll on the boardwalk. That's the kind of thing you can easily do when you have a car. It was heaven.

Wednesday, crisis across town - Eli not well, Ben at day camp, Anna had to go to work. So I spent the day with Eli. We played Scrabble and other games, and he'd take a break and play video games, but mostly, I read him The Christmas Pig, by J.K. Rowling. I gave it to him nearly two years ago; we get so little time together, we were still only halfway through, and it's really too young for him now, his mother is reading him The Hunger Games! So I decided it was time, we needed to finish. She's a master storyteller, that writer, should go far. 

When Anna got home at 9 I was hoarse and still reading, but we did it. And sometimes, he put his head on my shoulder as I read. 

Had to rip out the bean plants today - loads of growth and flowers, not one single bean. But picked my first yellow zucchini, and the tomatoes are exploding. Started to cook for my birthday dinner on Monday: pesto and tabbouleh, with basil, mint, and parsley from the garden.  Summertime, and the living is delicious.

Monday, July 25, 2022

the pope comes through

No words. 
 

Prima Facie and the importance of writing to living writers

Walked out of a movie theatre yesterday tingling with excitement and pleasure. I'd just seen the National Theatre Live's presentation of Prima Facie, the film of a play about a brilliant, fierce young lawyer from a working class background, upended and nearly destroyed by sexual assault. She finds herself on the other side of the witness box and understands the unfairness of the law for the first time. It's a one woman show, and the actress Jodie Comer is phenomenal. It's a performance almost to rival Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, which remains the single most magnificent display of stagecraft I've seen in my very long life of theatre-going.

It's shown in conjunction with a charity established by a female London barrister, which brings friendly lawyers and police into schools to talk with children about consent. Given what we're learning about Hockey Canada and its slush fund to pay off women who've been assaulted by the players, not much has changed in our world. I understand why old men don't get it; they were raised in a different era, when women were more or less property to do with as you wished. But young men? 

And let's not even begin to think about what's happening to women in the US, the force of the racist, sexist backlash. The American Taliban. 

On a happier note, someone I don't know but see on screen in our Zoom dance party just wrote, I read Loose Woman several months ago and have been meaning to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Saw you in class today and decided not to put it off for another moment. I hadn’t thought about my time in Vancouver for decades and it was really special to read all about your experience working in the theatre there. Loved the whole book!!

Thank you so much!

On the same note, I too wrote to a writer I admire. Ian Leslie is a Brit who writes brilliantly about many things, including the Beatles. I discovered him years ago with his marvellous piece https://ianleslie.substack.com/p/64-reasons-to-celebrate-paul-mccartney?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email&utm_source=email   

He replied then to a fan note. When I found out he's writing a book about the bond between John and Paul I couldn't stop myself emailing to say how much I look forward to the book, how I've always thought in some pictures John looked at Paul, at least in the early days, with something like longing or even desire; how important their huge differences were to the music. 

But I thought, nothing here he doesn't know, he doesn't need your stupid two cents, and anyway, he'll be put off by this over-eager Canadian fan girl. 

Here's what Ian wrote back: Beth, this was such a lovely email to receive and read, thank you so much! You're so right about those pictures, that gaze...you express it beautifully, it's very helpful and encouraging to read.

Once again, here's my rule: always write to your favourite writers, if they're alive, to tell them what they mean to you. Writing is a lonely business, working in a void. How much it means to hear those appreciative voices. Friends, write to a writer today!

Saturday, July 23, 2022

watching Thursday's Jan. 6 hearing

Just back from the Saturday farmer's market - wild blueberries, cherries, the first corn, and mostly meat from the Mennonite butchers including back bacon for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (with tons of mayo) and turkey sausages. Did not need to buy tomatoes or cukes, which overflow here. First peaches on sale but too hard. Saw how cheap the huge zucchinis are; I figure mine, the only one in three full plants so far growing to any size, probably cost me about $20. 

When I got there I realized I'd forgotten a mask and was nervous, mostly shopped at the booths outside; am due for the second booster on Monday and will try not to catch this extremely infectious variant before then. 

But such a profusion of produce and good things on display. How incredibly lucky we are. Our country is not at war, being smashed by a hostile foreign power. We do not fear our children will be slaughtered at school or at the mall. We have not yet elected a leader who's a criminal sociopath. 

I watched the Jan. 6 hearing on Thursday with the most profound respect for those who are carefully, diligently, relentlessly, pursuing truth and justice. Liz Cheney and other ethical Republicans as the heroes of the day - who knew? What they present is fabulous television, beautifully produced, riveting, yet done with dignity. As Pottinger pointed out, the chaos and violence of Jan. 6 provided fuel for the world's dictators, who could point out how horrifyingly dysfunctional American governance is. But the hearings are proving the opposite: Caution! Democracy at work.

And the vile Steve Bannon found guilty. Lock him up.

Meanwhile, our own little dictator, Poilievre, advocates for jets at the Toronto island airport. Of course he does. Just what Toronto needs, with its paucity of peaceful green space and its lake nearly hidden behind countless high-rises — jets flying constantly over the waterfront. I hope the events of Jan. 6 have shown Canadians what happens when lying tinpot populists assume power. 

Blood pressure rising. Breathe. And then I read this, by Anna Akhmatova. Says it all for today. How did she know about the James Webb telescope? (Last word in second line is 'air.')

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Green Planet

We are all praying that tonight the Jan. 6 committee bangs a giant nail into the coffin of Evil Agent Orange.  Please God. Finish him the @#$# off!

It's hot. My zucchini have blossom end rot, apparently a calcium deficiency, so I had to buy calcium carbonate tablets, grind them up, and stick them in the soil. The raspberries have that yellow leaf thing, apparently a nitrogen deficiency, so I had to buy bone meal and scatter it. And now, though there are four big cukes in the fridge, no new ones are growing. Who knew growing veggies was so time-consuming and perilous? And expensive? Tomatoes are going to go nuts soon, however, and the garden is joy. Love to watch the bees burrow. Loved the one magnificent monarch I saw today, and the cardinal bathing still in the heat, splashing about in the little pot of water on the deck. 



Bumble nuzzling the dazzling dahlia, motionless, for hours. ZZZZ.

Love it all, especially after watching the latest episode of David Attenborough's The Green Planet. If you haven't watched it yet, please DO. It's brilliant and extremely moving, the fast motion photography showing plants and trees grow and attack and help each other, how they survive - how a plant in South Africa attracts dung beetles by producing seeds that look just like antelope dung, how an orchid disguises itself as a female wasp to trick the males, who embrace and pollinate it ... mind-blowing!

Sam came to visit. Bandit is getting bigger, and he's a handful. He likes to help with paper shredding. 

Today, a great treat - to Staples. Rows and stacks of post-its, pens, paper, and, yes, staples. I had to buy a few more of my favourite pens, Pentel's EnerGel 0.7 nib in mid-blue and brown. But I also bought the NYT recommended pen, the Uniball Jetstream, and yes, good too. MMMM. PENS! Elegant Waterman pens especially, but the throw-aways are more practical. 

Former student and friend Rani wrote about the workshop on her blog shescomeundone.org

Once I entered the garden, all my worries drifted away, as we spent the day writing, going deep into our emotions and those stories that were waiting to be told, trusting one another with the delicacy and vulnerability of those truths. I wrote about Gosia, past loves, bad dates, and stories from my childhood inspired by an exercise where we picked fresh raspberries from the garden and wrote about what inspired us after we tasted them. There was an instant connection between all of us. We enjoyed a great lunch of quiche, salads and yummy bread, lots of tea and coffee, and a glass of wine at the end of day to discuss writing practice and what it means to be introspective and poke and prod at emotions, while most people are out shopping and buying watches.

That's what I tell them in class: we're in here poking ourselves in the gut while the 'normal' others are at the mall buying watches. And we're the smart ones. Though I did, in fact, buy my lovely Timex that lights up at the Eaton Centre. Sometimes we introspectives do need to shop. And in fact, enjoy it. 

Yesterday my mother was haunting me. She was a talented artist in watercolours and oils, as well as a musician and much more. When Sam told me he's started to draw and is thinking about painting, I went to look for Mum's painting box, unopened since she died ten years ago. What an inspiring pile of brushes. Her apron, pencils, sharpeners, scraping tools, some dried-up paints - the back comes off to become an easel. I have an image of her outside, sitting on a little stool, totally focussed as she sketched. 

My relationship with Mum was complicated, as are most mother-daughter bonds, but sometimes I miss her a great deal. Good to have these souvenirs and to be able to pass them on, hope Sam will get good use out of his grandmother's delicious paintbox. I wonder if one day Eli or Ben will be happy to have some of their grandmother's Pentel EnerGel pens. Not quite the same. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Writing in the garden

Yesterday, for the Write in the Garden event, the most perfect weather all day: mild and sunny. Today, rain for the parched garden. Thank you universe for getting the weather right, at least for the twelve of us.

Usually I had help preparing for a day in my garden with eleven writers; my toothless friend Bill did the yard cleanup, and a family friend helped with cooking and cleaning. Bill is dead and the friend has moved on, so I was on my own. Just the shopping, many trips by bicycle, is tiring, let alone making big salads, doing a huge cleanup of both garden and house, and getting the prompts ready. By the end of Saturday, I was ready to fall over.

The day was perhaps the best yet. Eleven fascinating people, beautiful writing, intense talk, laughter. Brad and Arlene have done a number of these. Julia, whom I'd never met, came in from Ottawa for the weekend. Husband and wife Melanie and Jim who'd taken my course separately came together. Fang whom I'd only met while teaching on Zoom came in from Markham. Anne, Kate, and Lesia came back for the second time, former student Mita for the first, with another writer I didn't know, Cybele. They wrote, they ate, at the end we had a glass of wine and I urged them to continue the vital work of listening to themselves, making sense of life past and present in words, on paper. 

"You're magic," said Melanie. I think not, nothing magic about these old bones, but I was certainly prepared. Brad wrote that he came away with new ideas, and Mita, "I feel lighter today." Julia emailed from her train home,

A tremendous day. Your mid-wifery, wisdom, curation, and choreography were tremendous, and accordingly it flowed so beautifully.

What a lovely notion: midwifery, curation, choreography. Happy it went well.

Now begins my first real day of summer with just some editing to do for a few clients. Now begins the real work of getting back to writing, neglected for many weeks. Otherwise, no obligations except watering, pruning, and using cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and the rest. Oh, and my birthday August 1, another celebration in the garden. It is very quiet today. Mind you, despite all the company, it was very quiet yesterday.




Blessings. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Edward Burtynsky's "In the Wake of Progress"

Back only a day from staring at the lake and already lots going on. I hate to bring you down, but I just came from Edward Burtynsky's In the Wake of Progress exhibition. He travels the world taking magnificent photographs and film of the devastation wrought by humankind — strip mines, housing projects, car lots, garbage dumps, industrial wastelands. The show opens with glorious footage inside a BC rainforest, and then he pans back to show the horror of clear-cutting. He shows people in third world countries living in the most appalling conditions, thanks to us - people rummaging in garbage in Africa, thousands lined up in factories in China making clothing and electronics. It is to weep.

If you're in Toronto, I do urge you to see it - it's at the COC centre on Front Street for a few more days, produced by Luminato. I had one complaint that I passed on to them - the pounding music is way too loud. The film is hard enough to watch, they don't need to assault us with sound. But see it if you can. It's depressing as hell, but we need to be reminded. And there are brochures of all kinds of good causes on the way out, including BC's Ancient Forest Alliance and one to stop Highway 113 that I will definitely sign up for.



And then coming out to the prosperous, increasingly desperate and angry city. Glad to ride home on my bike, polluting nothing. But I confess, on the way home, to cheer myself up, I stopped at Doubletake, where I go once a week. After mourning the devastation of our planet, I stopped to shop. Yes, it's a thrift store, and my clothes are almost entirely second-hand, but still, talk about "an uneasy contradiction," as Burtynsky does, above. That's the problem, the human urge to consume. How to stop? 

I bought a pale blue linen top. It's beautiful. Do I need it? No. Do I love it? Yes. And had a long chat with Samia, my friend from Bangladesh who works there. I'm happy to report she and her family have moved into affordable housing in Regent Park, a beautiful apartment, she says. So - good news. Thank God. 

Came home and went to prune the tomatoes. Will do my best to care for my little patch of earth. 

Another magnificent show with incredible photography last night — David Attenborough's The Green Planet, the world seen from the point of view of its plants with mind-boggling time lapse photography. He shows us plant predators and even carnivores, the miraculous way plants adapt in the struggle to survive. Of course, so many plants and their habitats endangered now. 

Did one more silly thing, and I tell you this though I know my friends will make fun of me. A doctor wrote an op-ed in the Star today about how older people are denigrated as past their prime though they often have many good productive years ahead of them - urging the elderly to keep going. He uses as an example of someone who produced brilliantly when young and then sadly faded away ... Paul McCartney! Can you imagine? This musician who's never stopped creating for over sixty years? So I wrote him a letter refuting his article, suggesting that if he'd done a modicum of research he'd see the man, at eighty, is in fighting creative trim. And mailed it to his hospital.

Does this woman know what really matters to fight in this world? Obviously not. Does Macca need me to defend him? Also not. And yet, defend him I do. I know, my energy should go to the rain forests and the old growth forests and fighting Highway 113. I'll do that too, I promise. Wearing my new top while doing so.