Posted January 2 2013.
The above quote is by Carolyn Heilbrun. Here’s another:
“We women have lived too much with closure: “If he notices me, if I marry him, if I get into college, if I get this work accepted, if I get this job” — there always seems to loom the possibility of something being over, settled, sweeping clear the way for contentment. This is the delusion of a passive life. When the hope for closure is abandoned, when there is an end to fantasy, adventure for women will begin.” ― Writing A Woman’s Life
“Women, I believe, search for fellow beings who have faced similar struggles, conveyed them in ways a reader can transform into her own life, confirmed desires the reader had hardly acknowledged – desires that now seem possible. Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend.”
There are so many women who have given me courage over the years beyond those whose work I have read but surprising or not most of them are writers. I am thinking of Marlene, Shirley, Vaughan, Wenda, Kate, Susan, and Rosemary. And yet conversation with non-writers albeit strong intelligent women like Helen, Penelope, Ursula, Nancy, Anita, Sonia, Fanny, and more including my sisters has also comforted me and given me courage to believe in myself and my ideas.
2012 was a busy year, a difficult year, and after re-reading my blog posts and re-viewing my photographs, I see that I spent a lot of time travelling. I also spent a lot of time preparing for my daughter’s wedding, editing others’ work, buying in Paris for the boutique in Vancouver, and cleaning and guarding the rental house. I have not sat still for long and I need to sit still, by myself, for a decent amount of time or I write little and become anxious.
I have also been anxious for others this past year who I have tried to help but, at the moment, I cannot discuss these women’s problems as it would be an invasion of their privacy.
All in all, I am glad that 2012 is gone although this seems rather miserly of me because I had more than my share of great moments, sharing meals and conversations with old friends and new in familar and foreign places.
I seldom make new year’s resolutions as I seldom keep them. I simply like to reflect on the old year, and hope that I have learned something by my comings and goings. Susan said something to the effect that the point of living is learning. As long as we continue to learn, life has meaning.
She also said something re marriage this summer which continues to haunt me (in a good way.)
“The fourth element is the most important one, but it is secret and invisible…. I call it joy, joie de vivre. It is openness and trust. We see it in children. For us adults, it is harder to come by. It is in our loving ourselves and trusting ourselves. It is being in touch with the deep sources in ourselves and letting them flow free and unhindered through us to the others. It makes us calm and content and walk the earth in peace.”
(Oh, here, I go again.) This quote reminds me of some lines from a poem by Alden Nowlan:
“Yes, it’s what we all want, in the end,
not to be worshipped, not to be admired,
not to be famous, not to be feared,
not even to be loved, but simply to be held.”
So in 2013, I wish to be calm, content, to walk the earth in peace, and to be held.
Happy New Year. May it fulfill your desires.
These are pictures of my travels this year. Click to enlarge them.
Posted December 26 2012.
I arrived home yesterday, Christmas Day noon, from Toronto and walked through the doors, right past my Christmas gift, a beautiful bicycle with a big basket. Today I delivered some trinkets to friends in the village on my bicycle… though I walked with it most of the way because it’s been years since I have been on a bike and I was afraid of falling. Practice will make perfect and soon I’ll by cycling the countryside.
Toronto was a whirlwind, celebrating my father’s 90th with all my siblings, an uncle and aunt, and cousins from round the world. After the party, I was sick for three days and so missed seeing several special friends, but still it was a special visit.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by those you love and who love you.
Posted December 4 2012.
I know it has been a month since I blogged and, as usual, the guilt piles up until I return to this page.
What have I been up to? The most fun thing I’ve done is a fast three-day trip to visit my eldest son in Berlin. He is living in the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever seen and although, being a perfectionist, he has little furniture (waiting to find the perfect pieces and too busy to look too hard), I love the enormous empty living room that has light pouring in from three sides. I have always dreamt about having so much space in my home that I could afford to leave a room completely empty where, when the mood hit, I could go and dance.
I loved Berlin. I’m not quite sure how it achieves its calmness – like a layer of peace in the air – as it’s full of people, walking, riding bicycles, sitting inside and out at cafes, talking, shopping, sight-seeing, visiting museums (it even has a “museum island” where all sorts of art is exhibited in all sorts of buildings). I missed its famous Christmas market by a day but many store fronts were all glittery with over-the-top fancy Christmas displays.
I returned home to say goodbye to Rob who has gone to a beautiful little town on the Mediterranean to study French for a month, and to greet Gill who came “home” to finish researching and writing two books. Smart young woman already has a cookbook online and I am helping her edit “One Young Woman’s Guide to Paris” – a project close to her heart.
I have also returned to my novel, a project very close to my heart. My friend Shirley was here for a couple of weeks and, for many reasons, we both jumped into our novels that we’d unintentionally left (life got in the way) since we had our writing retreat in Ontario nearly a year ago. On Rob’s advice, we both downloaded the program “Schrivener” – a great organizational tool for authors that, in the end, formats all for either an ebook or manuscript – and every day, we worked together. I have forced myself since Shirley left to do at least half an hour a day on my book – “do something” is what I tell myself, “just keep going or you’ll never do it.” I am telling you this to reinforce the command. “Do something” and yes, I am doing something everyday and feel a little proud of myself.
I have also done one paid copywriting job and am working as a “project manager” for a renovation in another house – a story I’ll tell at another time.
I am also also also (oh I know I use that word too much) working on a surprise gift for my father who turns 90 Christmas Eve day. I leave for Toronto on December 13th and return Christmas day. (I plan to take my writing with me and swear to do at least half an hour a day there too.)
I’d say it helps to have another person in the house who is doing the same thing as you are. When Shirley was here, I couldn’t let her work and do nothing so I did something. Same with Gill. She’s a whirlwind although we did allow ourselves a fun night in Toulouse.
I woke early today (before 5) and am writing this blog to assuage the guilt. I have loved the word “assuage” since I memorized Longfellow’s poem “The Poets”. For a little literary content, I’ll copy it here (unfortunately, I can no longer recite by heart.) I read somewhere that everyone should memorize at least one poem just in case one is lost on a desert island and needs something other than survival to think about.
O ye dead Poets, who are living still
Immortal in your verse, though life be fled,
And ye, O living Poets, who are dead
Though ye are living, if neglect can kill,
Tell me if in the darkest hours of ill,
With drops of anguish falling fast and red
From the sharp crown of thorns upon your head,
Ye were not glad your errand to fulfil?
Yes; for the gift and ministry of Song
Have something in them so divinely sweet,
It can assuage the bitterness of wrong;
Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.
My day begins.
Posted November 6 2012.
This September, at Gill’s wedding, Mackenzie danced. She is one of those rare individuals who feels the music and responds to it as if she is part of it, as if she is an instrument of music. Her movements were fluid and sensual. I have never seen her so at one with herself, dancing alone as if she were alone.
I love dance. I love watching dancers and dance performances and Mackenzie’s unchoreographed moves were a pleasure to watch.
I tried to find a poem about dance for her birthday today but couldn’t find anything I liked so I have compiled a list of quotes:
On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined. – Lord Byron
To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Dancing is silent poetry. – Simonides
Dancing is like dreaming with your feet! – Constanze
To dance is to reach for a word that doesn’t exist,
To sing the heartsong of a thousand generations,
To feel the meaning of a moment in time.
- Beth Jones
While I dance I can not judge, I can not hate, I can not separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance. – Hans Bos
Dancers are the messengers of the gods. – Martha Graham
I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal. – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what it too deep to find for words. – Ruth St. Denis
Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. – Martha Graham
Happy Birthday, dear Mackenzie.
Posted October 31 2012.
It’s Halloween and tonight, after handing out little bags of candy, Shirley, Rob, and I will go to Rosemary’s for dinner, ghost stories, and fortune-telling (so says Rosemary.) Shirley arrived a week ago from Vancouver, nearly a year after we met in Toronto for a writing retreat and we’re at it again – working on our novels. Hallelujah. We have both downloaded “Scrivener” a writing resource for authors (that Rob told me about a year ago) and are organizing our thoughts.
Last night at dinner, I thought of an old essay I’d written over twenty years ago about Halloween and then updated a few years ago. I sent it out and heard nothing and so like much of my writing, it waits in a file labelled “stories without a home” in my computer, to be resurrected and rewritten (or not) at some later date. I’ve decided to publish it here:
“It’s the day before Halloween. My three children are in the living room, giggling and howling as they mimic all the marvelous creatures that appear, without effort, in their young minds. How I envy their unfettered imaginations that never give a thought to the facility of assembling costumes.
With a qualm, my mother-in-me tells them to stop their tomfoolery and be practical.“Tomorrow is Halloween. Find a costume.”
My stern voice doesn’t dampen their fun. My daughter, an impish five-year-old, decides to be a witch. Next evening, face painted a ghoulish green, dressed in rags, she sets off with a broomstick to terrorize the neighbours. My middle child, fits a curly yellow wig on his head, pads his chest, slips into my yellow dress, and paints his cheeks and lips siren red. With a handbag slung over one shoulder, the eleven-year-old boy/woman saunters out the door. Ten minutes before my eldest son is to meet a friend, he shows the first signs of adolescent insecurity. He tosses off his Indian headdress, drops
his tomahawk, and climbs into black slacks and sweatshirt. Pausing a moment to admire his face in the mirror, he paints it white, and circles his eyes and mouth in black. He shrugs at his image, gives me a lopsided grin, and leaves.
I remember having the same qualms as this son about Halloween. By the time I reached fourteen, the cost to my dignity was only just outweighed by my gluttony. (Almost) like the feasters in Fellini’s Satyricon who would gorge themselves until they vomited and then gorge again, I would consume sweets Halloween night until I felt sick.
My children return with huge sacks of edible junk. The boys head to their rooms to sort, compare, and devour. My daughter wastes no time on such superfluous activity. She delves into her bag and begins munching whatever her hand first touches. High on happiness and sugar, she gallops around and around and around until I feel dizzy. Suddenly, she stops. Her ghoul’s face lights up and a stream of garbled words erupt from her lips.
“I want to take all the dishes off the shelf and smash them I want to take all the food from the refrigerator and throw it off the balcony I want to take all the books from the case and burn them I want to take all my toys and throw them in the garbage.”
Exhausted from this imaginative activity, she rushes to the sofa and collapses.
I shiver wondering where my sweet girl child has gone.
“Why?” I finally manage to breathe.
“For fun. So there won’t be anything to do.”
Once again I admire a child’s unfettered imagination that is allowed to roam where it will without edits and guilt.
As I think about this scene from a dozen years ago, I suddenly recall another, this one from my single days when I was living alone in a small apartment. That day, the rain was mean and furious. I paced from one end of the short room to the other. Again and again. Suddenly, I found myself, staring at the dishes on the open kitchen shelf and was hit with a mad desire to take all the dishes and smash them. Unlike my daughter, I did not let the idea evaporate: I questioned my sanity.
“Wouldn’t such destruction be senseless? What if the neighbours hear the crash and call the police?”
In the end, I took one cup and saucer to the balcony and smashed them onto sopping cement. I slammed the door and collapsed on the couch.
When did I start taking myself so seriously? My daughter was happy to let her imagination flow. I questioned all in terms of reality. Does one have to be drunk to play? Does one only lose oneself while making love? Is it even possible for an adult to allow the imagination to roam?
And then I remembered Venice. Here is a place where adults indulge the imagination. During Carnival, the city and its people spend much time and energy planning a masquerade, a grand fantasy, a fairytale ball. For the most part, life is dictated by age, sex, and social position. In Venice, for a short time each year, a person’s present is transformed. One dons a mask and costume, and becomes whoever and whatever one pleases. Established in AD 697, the Venetian Republic lasted 1000 years, the longest republic in history. Some believe that Carnival is responsible.
SEPTEMBER 11TH appears. I do not have the stomach to continue thinking about fun. On television, I watch a jet flying into the World Trade Centre, not once but twice, I freeze. And then I freeze again. A friend is aboard a camera truck, shooting an epic. The director yells “faster faster.” The driver loses control and swerves. My friend bangs his head against the wall of the truck and is dead. At his funeral in a Buddhist temple, the priest said his life would only make sense if everyone present lived his or her life joyously. How is one to live joyously in a world where airplanes turn into
missiles, 110 floor buildings collapse in slow motion killing thousands, and a young man loses his life for the sake of a film? How can I contemplate play when the world is at war?
Over two years later, I come across an article by Victor Turner, anthropologist:
“Playfulness is a volatile, sometimes dangerously explosive essence, which cultural institutions seek to bottle or contain in the vials of games of competition, chance, and strength, in modes of simulation such as theater, and in controlled disorientation, from roller coasters to dervish dancing…” Although play is “out of mesh” with the day-to-day ingredients needed to sustain life, Turner asserts that it enriches and may even, in its oxymoronic fashion, be advantageous to future
generations: “Yet it may happen that a light, play-begotten pattern for living or social structuring, once thought whimsical, under conditions of extreme social change may prove an adaptive, ‘indicative mood’ design for living.”
Over the past dozen years, my children have grown up. My eldest son has left home. Although I still enjoy a wine-infused meal and an occasional fling with my man, I have grown more rebellious. I laugh and sing. I dance on tables.
I write. My imagination has only begun to flow unfettered and explore possibilities for serious play.”
This story always reminds me of my son Michael who once in class was asked by a teacher what he valued. “Fun” was his reponse. He is a wise young man.
Tomorrow, Shirley and I will take off overnight on an adventure with Susan to the Caunes-Minervois and stay in a luxury hotel… for fun.
Posted October 17 2012.
A little Bing Crosby for your birthday:
“You must have been a beautiful baby
You must have been a wonderful child
When you were only starting to go to kindergarten
I bet you drove the little boys wild.
And when it came to winning blue ribboms
You must have shown the other kids how…
Does your mother realize
The stork delivered quite a prize
The day he left you on the family tree?
Does your dad appreciate
That you’re merely supergreat
The miracle of any century?…
You must have been a beautiful baby
You must have been a wonderful child.”
Yes you were. Your mother realizes and so does your father. You’re over the quarter century crisis and now you can fly.
Again, have a wonderful day and year. You are very much loved.
Posted October 14 2012.
Rob says he’s 64. Not true. Today’s he’s 66 and I’ve invited a few friends to dinner. I’m cooking, at his request, a good old maritime meal of shrimps in butter and garlic, mashed potatoes and salt cod, a big salad, served with a few bottles of French bubbly.
Speaking of food, Gill’s running today for Second Harvest to feed those who don’t have enough. If you’d like to contribute, click on link above.
Yesterday was Michael and Kenzie’s first wedding anniversay. Happy Anniversary, you two.
Lots to celebrate. Lots to love. Still, too much to do but I am thankful for the love of a good man and all my children and my parents, siblings and friends. I am fortunate.
Posted October 9 2012.
I’ve lost track of time these days. Since Gill and John’s wedding day, I’ve been flying, literally and figuratively. I’ve been to Milan and Paris, viewing fashion for spring, working on presentations, and cleaning house – ours and rental. It’s a little strange to move from the job of buyer to the job of cleaning woman but I like both.
I forgot to mention in my last blog that I did not include pictures of my daughter’s new husband because he does not want his picture on the internet. I did not forget him.
Three days after the wedding, Helen and I flew to Milan for three days. Three days after we returned, Helen left for Vancouver. Gill was around for another day or two and then she flew home. I have no idea what I did when she left before I left for Paris. Time and memory escapes me.
I remember taking a slow slow train to Paris to do a new show, two new shows – one at the Tuileries and one at the Palais de la Bourse and Louvre Carousel.
The settings were so much more beautiful than the other show that I usually attend and the fashion was, for the most part, younger and wilder, and more international. I found three new lines that will find their way into the store in March 2013 and a number of other possibilities, recording my finds on my trusty little camera so I could show all to the store owner and let him decide. (It’s so much easier not having the final say.) As I only had my iPad with me, I did not download the pictures in the evening. Big mistake. When I returned home, I could not find the camera. I emptied my bags. I called the hotel. It was gone – lost or stolen.
I was shaken. I felt like an imbecile. I felt terrible. In all my years of buying, I have never lost my pictures. Thank goodness, I had lots of paper work – notes, order forms, brochures, and business cards. I began telephoning and emailing and checking websites. Four days and several sleepless nights later, I have it all together and can breathe easy.
I have one more order to put together and then I can get back to editing Gill’s book. I’d like to have it finished for her birthday next week. On Sunday, we shall celebrate Rob’s 64th. Will I ever get back to my novel? Hopefully, I will.
What is it that John Lennon said? (I had to look it up.) “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” And I found another quote by him that I like: “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”
I would like to waste some time. There’s a feeling of autumn in the air. The leaves are changing. The new wine is being brewed. Soon my friend Shirley will arrive and perhaps we will take a drive to the Mediterranean. I need something to clear my head. I don’t want to be always infernally busy.
Posted September 17 2012.
Gill and I slipped away early, met the mother and sister of her beloved, and drove to Gaillac for manicures and quiet conversation in a Thai salon called “Feelingly”. I was finished first and managed to have my hair washed and styled and run a few errands before the others were finished. The day sped by. With the help of family and friends, we delivered wine decanters filled with flowers from Friday’s Gaillac market (and beautifully arranged by LIsa), organza bags of French candy, herbes de Provence, and lavender, and macaroons from Pierre Hermes in Paris, to the restaurant at 2 p.m.
Friends from the village and Michael and Mackenzie finished decorating the Salle de Fete for the evening dance, and Michael and Brendan drove to Gaillac to round up enough ice to chill the wine and beer for the evening celebration.
An hour or two before the ceremony was to happen, we all managed to bathe and dress in our finery. Gill was breathtakingly beautiful in a sophisticated long white gown that clung to her curves with a flower broach in her hair. Brendan poured those of us present in our house, a glass of champagne and then we, two by two. walked to the Mairie around the corner with Gill and Rob arriving last.
The ceremony was simple, led by the deputy mayor who speaks English and French. John and Gill, in their own poetic voices, told of their love for the other. I remember Gill telling John that he is her best friend and she wants to wake up seeing him until she can no longer open her eyes. John told Gill that she is the kindest person that he has ever met and called her an angel.
And then Susan stepped up to the long table and read a “sermon”, a piece on “true marriage” that she had written for her son and his bride. Though Susan’s “sermon” was a parody, it was written from the heart and is true to her beliefs:
I ask you, dearly beloved, what is a true marriage? It is three things: first, a marriage of the body, second, a marriage of the mind and third, a marriage of the heart.
A marriage of the body means tenderness. It is touching tenderly, even if one doesn’t feel like it…. A marriage of the mind means equality. It is respecting one another’s aims in life and helping one another to achieve them. Not competing, not jeering. Jeering is anti-marriage. it is breaking the marriage vows. A marriage of the mind is keeping one another in order too, because as the great and reverend doctor, David Reid, has said, people have to keep one another in order. A marriage of the heart – that’s not so easy. It’s loving one another so spontaneously and instinctively that one puts the other first. It’s also admiring one another because, as the great Musil has said, without mutual admiration, a long-term partnership isn’t really possible.
And now, dearly beloved, I must add something that is a bit difficult. This holy trinity, body mind and heart, is made one by the cross, but a cross has four ends, not three [sketches the four points in the air]. The fourth element is the most important one, but it is secret and invisible. It is not subject to the will like the other three. It has no name. I call it joy, joie de vivre. It is openness and trust. We see it in children. For us adults, it is harder to come by. It is in our loving ourselves and trusting ourselves. It is being in touch with the deep sources in ourselves and letting them flow free and unhindered through us to the others. It makes us calm and content and walk the earth in peace. The fourth thing, which knits the other three together is, in the language of the church, called grace. May the marriage of Gillian and John be full of grace.
Afterwards, we crossed the square to Les Consuls restaurant and had bubbly and foie gras, and then sat down to a splendid meal of figs, and steak or fish – each to his or her own preference. The chef and his staff created the best meal that I have ever eaten in the restaurant.
After a profiterole cake and macaroons were served, followed by pink bubbly, we all walked down to the Salle de Fete for the celebration with the town folk. The Salle de Fetes was decorated with ribbons and balloons, bales of hay, long tables with nibblies and glasses of bubbly and wedding candy. We talked and danced until the wee hours of the morning.
Later the next morning, all the guests congregated for a farewell breakfast of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, fresh bread, orange juice and coffee. Gill and John left for a short honeymoon in Mykonos. Several others left and over the next few days, most of the others trickled away. Yesterday, Helen left for Vancouver, followed by John for Toronto. Gill will leave Tuesday.
Now all is quiet, so quiet. John’s mother told me that after her daughter’s wedding, after all the guests had left, she sat in the empty marquee and cried. I now understand. Remnants of the wedding remain – boxes of wine, flower gifts, cards, and such. There was an over abundance of activity and people and now there is silence. The creation of something extraordinary for a much loved child is complete and now I will return to the everyday but I’ve forgotten what the everyday is.
My mind drifts to Michael and Mackenzie’s ceremony nearly a year ago. It was simpler but held its own magic and beauty. What is important, in my mind, is that it was a rite of passage and when I was around M & M this visit, I saw how their love and individual persons have grown.
Though I joke about marriage being just a piece of paper, I see that it is more. On an obvious level, it is a commitment to another to love and cherish. On a deeper level, it can become what Susan calls a “true marriage”.
I wish the best for Gill and John. I wish them a love so open and trusting that it will carry them through the difficult times. I wish them a love that is so full of passion and tenderness for the other that it will grow and reinforce love of self.
Posted August 10 2012.
(Remember to click on picture to enlarge. If it’s still too small, click again.)
Rob and I have been enjoying the sun and the numerous summer activities that happen in the Tarn. We are going to hear Ruth play on Sunday at Café Joubert in Fayssac – an evening of music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Tonight our village’s fete begins and the people who live along the Esplanade (where the fete takes place) are not happy. Susan and David have taken off. The music is loud and often goes to 5 in the morning. Last year, a group of young delinquents from somewhere else went along one main road and smashed all the flower pots. Although we have been told that three security people will walk the village streets and discourage such destruction, many will take their plants indoors before they go to bed.
I am one of the rare ones who likes the fete and carnival food and music and dance and accept it as a part of village life although I am most often in bed before 11 and can sleep no matter how loud the noise…
Gill returns from Berlin this afternoon. Yeah.