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   

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 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

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.


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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - superb!

Lucky camper here. Home yesterday from 3 days at Ruth's cottage, and all over again, I understand why cottages are so important to Canadians. We never had one, almost never even went to one during my childhood; I never learned to sail or waterski or do cottagey things. And when my kids were small, their dad was always busy and we didn't have much money, so summers were mostly here. I've always regretted we didn't have a family escape route, a time and place where we were forced to be together and play board games and get to know each other.

Ruth's cottage is on an island in Muskoka; they bought it in 1970, and it's perfect - quiet, low-key, comfortable, with wonderful swimming, two kayaks and a canoe, plus, oh yes, strong internet, cable TV, and Netflix. And this time, Ruth's son John's ridiculous lab Rhoda to keep us occupied. I finally got to read Old Filth by Jane Gardam, which I've been meaning to read for years, and what a treat it was - a delicious book, I didn't want to put it down, but did force myself to swim and kayak, cook and eat and walk through the island's forest with Ruth. We watched the new Spielberg West Side Story over two nights, a powerful production cleverly updated by Tony Kushner, could not get the brilliant music and lyrics out of my head after. Keep your eye on Ansel Elgort, a beautiful young actor with a strange name, on his way to stardom. Be still my beating heart. 

And what pleasure to watch a friendship develop between Ruth and Anne-Marie, who met through me not long ago and have a great deal in common, including a fierce commitment to social justice and a good friend known for decades to them both. 

We had perfect weather that turned as Annie and I were driving home Tuesday, through sudden rainstorms and then hot sun and rain again. Alanna had used the house as a studio while I was away and left two bottles of wine and a lovely sketch as a gift. Checked the garden, changed, then out again for a huge treat: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Anna, Sam, and Eli. My kids and I had adored the books; we read them simultaneously and avidly discussed what we thought would happen next. I went online the moment tickets went on sale and got us good seats, two together, two separate. 

Now it's more complicated, because my woke daughter is part of the tribe that believes J.K. Rowling, in defending the rights of women, is anti-trans and has condemned her. It breaks my heart. I could not have more respect for this fine, hard-working writer with a huge social conscience, who brought the joy of reading to countless children and whose charity Lumos works to move children from orphanages into homes. Still, Anna came. Nine-year-old Eli, who'd been read the first book and seen the films, was not excited to be there. Eli does not get excited.

It was incredible. Thirty-five terrific actors, almost all if not all Canadian from various backgrounds, spectacular effects, a moving story. Underneath all the magic and wizard stuff is the tale of a man - Harry - struggling to be a good father despite never knowing his own, and his son, Albus Severus, struggling as the son of a famous, distant dad. It's about friendship and kindness and trust. Dumbledore appears with profound words about love and pain. It's so cleverly done, sometimes with the simplest effects, like the magical moving staircases of Hogwarts in the films, here just staircases to nowhere pushed about on wheels by cast members in black. And some effects gasp-inducing. 

After, cycling home. Where there's no lake, sadly, but there's a garden. 

Click to enlarge.

Ruth demonstrating beaver damage. Look what he did to that huge tree! We saw him several times swimming around the island, though didn't see the lodge. 
Rhoda, sleeping extravagantly, as only a happy dog can.
The cottage living room. 
Not a lake, but it'll have to do. The phlox is coming out. 
Outside the theatre last night - it used to be the Pantages, run by my ex. See how thrilled Eli is.

From Alanna - a drawing of my British great-grandmother's best teapot. 

Back to routine: watering, pruning, picking cukes, tomatoes, and raspberries, and getting ready for the Write in the Garden workshop on Sunday. Summer in the city. There will be rosé.

Till next time, dear idyll:

Saturday, July 9, 2022

@#$#&% Rogers!

Written Friday July 8

3 p.m. Horrifying to realize how dependent we all are on our devices and their servers. Rogers is down, swaths of the entire country without internet – a hack or ransomware? Neighbour Stephen said, “It’s the Russians or extraterrestrials." 

Here, since I get everything from Rogers, I have no internet, no cellphone or landline, and no TV. I cannot get in touch with anyone, and my only knowledge of the outside world is from CBC radio, which repeats the same thing over and over: Rogers knocked out, no word on why or when it’ll be back. I can’t check Twitter, the Globe, the local TV news channel CP24. I can’t phone my kids to tell them I’m okay and find out how they are.

 This morning, went down the street to see if Craig and Joe had internet and found out that the whole country was down; it hadn’t occurred to me. Stayed and talked to them on their enclosed garden patio for an hour and a half. Most pleasant. We discussed the growing violence and intolerance in our world — human vileness, once suppressed, released into the ether by Pandora Trump. Heard about Joe’s coming out as a gay man in Windsor, his first affair in high school, how much the new freedom for gay people means to him now. They are dear friends, wonderful people, but we've never sat and talked at length before. So, the up side. 

I'm supposed to go to a huge party near St. Clair and Spadina tonight, was going to take an Uber. No Uber. Need to check the address to see how to get there by TTC – no Google maps. I have a real Toronto map somewhere, will check that. But how will I get home after? By TTC again, if it’s running. Perhaps I shouldn’t go.

 Tomorrow, Annie and I were going to drive north to Bracebridge to spend a few days at Ruth’s cottage. But she’s on an island; we have to phone to tell her we’ve arrived so she can come in the boat to pick us up, but now we can't. I hope she’s not alone there now without internet. Will we go? I can’t contact Annie to ask. 

No email! No telephone or texting. If this had been a few days ago and I was supposed to talk by phone to radio stations across the country ... Or had a deadline or was awaiting urgent news. 911 is down, at least for some. I have nothing to fuss about except a party and this haunting feeling of isolation.

What if electricity went down? What if everything suddenly collapsed? I could eat the cucumbers in my garden and that’s about it. Rhubarb. Green tomatoes. Tons of basil. What flowers could I eat? What use are flowers to the hungry? 

Can’t do Wordle. Can’t tape Upstart Crow which I’ll miss if I go out tonight. Can’t text my kids!

Did I use today to work in tranquillity, freed from the tyranny of social media and email? I did not. I had a haircut and watered and read and went shopping at Doubletake, where I bought two plain drinking glasses, a Uniqlo sweatshirt, and a shapely black Irish linen dress I may never wear. Fun. 

Talking to myself, that’s what I’m doing now, since I can’t talk to anyone else. Monique and JM are away. What would I do without neighbours? I’m finding out. Thank God for Joe and Craig, who are often away but home now. 

5.45. Robin my upstairs tenant came home, unaware of the crisis; he was at work all day and they have Bell. He lent me his phone, since he has a non-Rogers server. Tried Annie, Sam, Anna, Thomas, Anna’s neighbour Greg – nothing. Called JM who has Bell, happy to hear his voice if just on the machine, left a message. Got through to Ruth’s phone at the cottage, left her a message about what’s happening, that she can call Robin’s cell if she wants to get in touch. At least we know we can get through to her if we get there, maybe from a payphone in town. 

Supposed to get dressed to go to this party. Maybe best to go and take my mind off this.

9.30. Back early from the party - didn't want to take TTC in the dark - and we’re suddenly back on. 43 emails! Mail coming in but still can’t get many websites or TV stations. It was on and now is going off again. Time to go to bed. 

Next morning: Seems to be up and running fine now. The world opens up. I was frantic yesterday. Something to think about - that dependency. 

Off to cottage country. Alanna Cavanaugh the artist who did two of my book covers is coming over to use the house as a studio while I'm away. 

Last evening, I took TTC to the party, a going away event for old friends curator Jessica Bradley and photographer artist Geoffrey James, who are moving to Montreal, and for Geoffrey's 80th birthday. A huge house, the entire backyard filled with extremely chic art world folks, a jazz band with Geoffrey sitting in on trumpet and their son Charles on bass, then a bluegrass band with their son Matt playing fiddle. Waiters in black circulating with delicious food. Happy to sit with writer David McFarlane and his wife Janice, the only people I knew besides J and G. David joked that when country people imagine what Toronto people do, this is what they have in mind.

Yes, milling about with artists eating gourmet finger food to a jazz band is what we are always doing. LOL. 

Thank you for being there, unseen readers on the other side of this screen, connected by the great powers of the mystical master Mr. Rogers. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

remembering my father

Today is the day my father died: July 6 1988. More than three decades ago. His death, at age sixty-five, both devastated and liberated me. He was a powerful man in life and remains so in death. 

I had a haunting dream last night, the first vividly remembered dream in many months, about seeing a man I once loved desperately (and in the dream still did) with someone else — a good friend of mine, though not someone I could identify from my life, as I could him. It was clear they were lovers. In the dream I realized that once again, I was rejected, inadequate, unlovable to a man, and also betrayed by a friend. Woke up feeling lost and sad. No idea if the dream had anything to do with the date. Dad and I had fixed what was wrong between us, but there'd been harm. 

It's a rose-breasted grosbeak singing to me right now, according to the app, though I've not seen it. The sweetness of the garden wafts in. Thank you for all you gave, Dad, to the world, to Canada, to science, to me especially. You are missed. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

BK yammering on national radio

Life is full of surprises. Yesterday at Monique's cottage, I sat on the deck watching my two friends set off for a preliminary exploration in the canoe when I checked my email. Monique does not have the internet - AAAGH! Withdrawal! - and it can be hard to access mail, but when I did, there was a note from a CBC producer in Toronto wanting to talk to me for a segment on, of course, writing memoir. We did a twenty-minute interview, and she asked if I'd be willing to answer more or less the same questions on a bunch of syndicated CBC programs the following afternoon.

Problem: we were supposed to leave the cottage in the afternoon. But it was supposed to rain all day today - and did - so Annie and Monique were happy to leave early enough to get me home in time for my CBC duties. From 3.20 to 6.07, I did short interviews with hosts from Toronto, Victoria, Sudbury, Kelowna, Whitehorse, London, and Regina, hoping to convince Canadians country-wide about the importance of memoir. 

Activated my actress self; I even drank tea with lemon and lots of honey beforehan for my throat, and Sarah the host in Kelowna said, "You have a beautiful voice." Merci! Jean-Marc called immediately after the Toronto segment to tell me it went well. I hope it sells some books, and/or encourages people to take the course. 

It also looks like I'll teach a memoir workshop at my beloved local library in the fall. Madame Memoir, at your service.

The cottage was a treat, with two dear friends in the sun by the water. Annie and Monique are both much more avid swimmers than I - I barely went in, whereas this morning, they even swam in the rain. Unimaginable. We canoed a bit, read and ate a lot, and talked really really a lot. I confess I'm a bit worn out by all the company; as someone who lives alone, I'm just not used to it. But the trip was a treat. What a gorgeous country we live in. How lucky we are. Have I said that before?

From the deck
Breakfast on Monique's floating dock
Perhaps you can't see them, but there are two big beaver dams on this inland lake.
I found this huge wild turkey feather; Annie's holding it for the shot, but I'm keeping it. They're apparently used for smudging ceremonies.
My lovely French hostess
Picked for our table.

I used the Merlin app to find out what birds were around, besides the jays, crows, and robins, and found the red-eyed vireo, Eastern phoebe, common yellowthroat, magnolia warbler, and ovenbird. I've never even heard of some of them. And, obviously, somewhere, a wild turkey shedding feathers. 

Was relieved when the interviews were over this evening and I could go out and prune the roses. Garden coming along well. The world, not so much. I couldn't access the news for three days, but I gather to my sorrow that things are not substantially better anywhere. Still, I'm glad to be back in touch. Hello! 

Friday, July 1, 2022

having the great good fortune to live in Canada

First things first: the interview on writing memoir for the Globe went up this week. There are a few minor errors - Finding the Jewish Shakespeare is definitely not a memoir, for example - but it's a nice article.

A tranquil, cloudy Canada Day. As you may know, I emigrated to this country from Manhattan at the age of three and a half months, with an American father and a British mother. Except when my mother's sister Do lived here on and off, we never had family in Canada. Mum had no idea what to do with sweet potatoes; Dad didn't understand Hallowe'en or polite Canadian reticence. 

All of us were profoundly grateful to live here for the rest of our lives.

I've never been more grateful than I am today, as we watch a fellow democracy, our neighbour, screech off the rails into demagoguery, authoritarianism, violence, and outright lunacy. Taking some of our citizens with it. 

My daughter does not celebrate Canada Day, because she carries close to her heart the horrendous injustices done to our Indigenous peoples and to all people of colour. There's no question many reprehensible wrongs were done through the years, with no accountability. But there's a powerful movement afoot now to make things right, more in the last few years than in all previous decades. Toronto's police chief issued an apology recently for racist behaviour from the police force. The membership of the local Black Lives Matter responded by refusing to accept the apology. 

I asked myself, Does that help?

Our prime minister is a pretty boy who comes across as a lightweight, and yet under his government, through the destructive hurricane of the last few years, we've had a lot of progressive legislation and years of stability. We are one of the bastions of support for Ukraine and for reproductive rights. 

And it has been objectively proven that Canada had the second best response to Covid in the G10, after Japan - the second lowest rate of infection and death. Those screaming in the streets in Ottawa today might reflect on that, though of course reflecting is not what they do. 

I'm preparing to go to Monique's cottage for a few days tomorrow, with Anne-Marie. Robin will be keeping the plant and plants going, watering and taking in the mail. I feel so rooted in this house, and this chair, that it'll be good to rip myself out, even just for a few days, and next weekend, a few more days at Ruth's cottage. No plans to travel, almost no plans at all - just sitting here, looking at the garden. I've had one raspberry so far, one pea. The lettuce has gone to seed, but within a few weeks, I'll be feasting on tomatoes and cukes. Right now I hear the robins and the cardinal complaining about the empty feeder; I'm giving myself a birdseed break for the summer. 

If we lived elsewhere, my son would perhaps be in the army fighting a murderous invader. My daughter and I would be on the streets protesting draconian new laws. We could be praying for rain, or for vaccine shipments, or food, or peace. We have the incalculable luck to live in one of the most solid democracies on the planet. 

Today, for myself, I thank Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, whose rightwing paranoia and persecution forced my socialist father to take a job in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1950.

Here's the welcome rain. Happy Canada Day.

Loose Woman, bottom left, on a memoir bookshelf.