Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The last day of the month. I drove Gill to school for her 7 a.m. French class and have come down to the water where sea gulls and crows are walking on my log, screaming obscenities at each other. I sit on another log and a dull taupe bird approaches me, hoping to share my muffin. Is this the female? Reminds me of a poem by D.H. Lawrence "Self-Protection". I can't help myself, I have to look it up:

"As a matter of fact, the only creatures that seem to survive
are those that give themselves away in flash and sparkle
and gay flicker of joyful life;
those that go glittering abroad
with a bit of splendour."

I have loved Lawrence for years. I know he wasn't always kind to Freida but still he writes so beautifully. Hemingway was also a beast to his wife but this doesn't impinge on the pleasure I feel when I read him.

Something strange happened this morning: I woke up feeling happy. I have a whole expanse of day to read and write. I also want to make a small and I mean, really small, birthday gift for Gill and Marlene. I smile when I write this: if they read this, they'll wonder what I'm up to. I love making and giving surprises.

I appear to be in love today. At three in the morning, Rob crept into bed. I slid my back over and curled into his warmth. He wrapped one arm around me and was instantly asleep. (Another fifteen hour day. He was hoping this film would have shorter working hours.) This is one of the real pleasures of being home.

A crow has found a clam shell and is trying to dig out its tiny occupant. He reminds me that I started reading Creation by Katherine Govier last night and am already intrigued. It's a fictional account of John James Audubon and one little-told trek he made to the treacherous passage between Newfoundland and Labrador in an attempt to find and draw every bird in North America. I have to admit that I'm not reading it for the nature or art. Based on other Govier novels I've read - she's a master story-teller - I expect to find great insights and passion.

In the opening few chapters, Audubon sights a tern that he has never seen and shoots several to use as a models for his art. As they plummet, several more follow and only rise again when its friend or mate has touched the water. Audubon is surprised and raises his rifle again, shoots another, and then hides. The same thing happens but instead of rising again, the live bird lands beside the dead one and touches it gently, like a caress.

I witnessed a similar incident when I was on Mayne Island with Leslie. One morning when I looked out onto the porch, a tiny bird, perhaps a sparrow lay dead while another perched on top of it as if guarding it from further harm.

I think of Leslie a lot these days. Perhaps because I am back in her store. She would be happy I think to have seen me yesterday working with the silks, laces, and velvets, displaying them in rich clusters of colour and texture. I rearranged the entire store and must admit that I was rather pleased with the result: it looked so much lusher. Les always trusted my eye and I still feel this a complement: she was such a fine artist.

One of her therapist at her funeral said that Leslie would be with me at my best moments and would leave to go about her own business, when I'm at my worst.

I also began arranging the buying trip to San Francisco at the end of October. I spoke to one clothing rep who will not be able to be there and he offered to fly me down to Los Angeles to his showroom and, if I was willing, he would throw in a bottle of French champagne. How can I resist? I spoke to Walter and we've decided after the San Fran show, instead of returning to Vancouver in the evening, I will fly to L.A., stay one night (drinking champagne) and return to Vancouver the next afternoon, after checking out the clothing line in the morning. My nomadic heart is pleased.

It's nearly noon and I am still happy. What's wrong with me? I have reworked a story and think it's polished enough to be sent. I have time to shop for a few items I need, time to read, time to write some more. Do wonders ever cease?

Monday, September 29, 2003

I did go on at length yesterday. I will be briefer today as I am going to spend the day at LeslieJane. In the evening, I have my second Excel course.

I woke at three this morning and finally realizing that sleep was hopeless, I climbed out of bed at four. My mind is twirling. I have so much I want to accomplish that I see I'll have to make a schedule or I'll do nothing or a little bit of everything and feel unsatisfied and incomplete. (So what else is new?)

I received an email from one woman who did the French workshop outlining her long-term writing projects. I responded that I was envious but that she has inspired me to create a game plan or rather a writing plan that will help me focus.

Speaking of focus, one of the three women I write with also mentioned by email that it is time we focused on product. This week I intend to look at what I have already written - a substantial file - and decide what to do with a number of my stories and articles and begin working methodically. There is also a story I started in France that I'd like to see if I can develop. There is also my novel.

I was inspired yesterday when I went to the Vancouver Book and Magazine Fair. I listened to a panel of newspaper and magazine editors who said that they are always looking for good writers and that the query letter is worth a day of work. If a good line or two catches their attention, they'll seriously consider the writer.

To end for today, I finished "What Her Body Thought" and there is still so much I have to digest but I'm drawn at the moment, as I think about my own writing, to a short paragraph towards the end of the book: "It is still amazing to me how much a book has a life of its own. It becomes part of your body as you write, waking you early in the morning with the desire for completion, the need to come all the way into being."

I think this true of any writing project. This is where, for me, the pleasure and reward of writing lies.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Today, I'm going to the Vancouver Book and Magazine Fair downtown that Brendan told me about last night and I've had to rearrange my day. I was going to go into the store this morning and rearrange all and make it lush and beautiful but I've decided that can wait until tomorrow. I've promised Walter two days a week and I'm determined to do only this and still make it work for both of us. My work is writing whether I sell a damn thing or not. The store is my job - a small step towards autonomy as I'll be earning a pay cheque for the first time in over a year. I am going to have to say focused and schedule my time carefully but I think I can manage all. (At the moment, I feel a little anxious and excited.)

Last night, Rob, Les, Mike, Kirsten, Brendan and I went to see "The Far Side of the Moon", a movie adapted from what I hear was an amazing play. The film was shot in three weeks which astonished Rob and apparently all kinds of amazing new technology was used but as I am illiterate in this area, I can't comment. The director who also played the two lead roles - two brothers - spoke before and after the performance. I liked his person and his comments. Oh, he also wrote the play and adapted it for film. The story is difficult to tell. One brother is defending his Ph.D. thesis for the second time - and fails. His main point, as I understand it, is that Russian space travel is narcissitic. His younger brother is a gay weather broadcaster. Their mother has just died and the film weaves past and present sibling rivalry alongside old footage of space travel. The tale is bizarre but I enjoyed it. (Bren wasn't impressed.) One line of dialogue sticks in my mind. The Ph.D brother is talking to the Russian astronaut who says that looking in a mirror is not only narcisstic: it is also a way to know oneself better. When I told this to Gill later in the evening, she commented that she oftens looks in the mirror to see who she is and thinks it strange that we see her more and know her face better than she does. I have often thought that teenagers look often in the mirror because they are worried about self-image. Now, I see that they may well be adjusting to their rapidly changing looks.

I am nearing the end of Griffin's book. In the pages I read this morning, she speaks of place seducing and becoming part of the body. She describes Paris: "You can feel the city the way you would a landscape, as one continuous whole, coherent in itself... there are goddesses all over Paris... working together to weave the city into one fabric." Am I blind? I have never been aware of these statues in my favourite city. Five weeks ago, I was wandering its streets, searching out favourite spots, stopping often to read. I feel so comfortable there. I didn't enter a single monument or museum. I was happy, for the most part, alone and drifting and although I wasn't thinking about my novel, ideas kept coming to me and I'd stop and write them down. I want to live in this city. Rob and I said once that someday we spent three or four months here.

"I want to live in this city." I realize that I have written this in my journal many times. Vaughan and I had a discussion once about ideas that come to us when we're writing in our journals that feel like epiphanies but when we re-read past entries, we find that we have had the idea before - sometimes a number of times and yet each time the idea feels like a revelation. We wondered whether there is a consistent number of entries before an idea takes root and we act.

I am enamoured with Griffin's book because she not only touches on and clarifies many issues and places that are important to me but she inspires new thought. While writing about Paris, she speaks of courtesans and virgins, sinners and saints, and unexpectedly ends with thoughts of her estranged mother, about visiting her in a shabby little room and feeling her mother's "loneliness and despair" but then Griffin makes a leap and says " although loneliness is real and painful, isolation is an illusion. Society, like nature, is one body really. Each life reverberates in every other life. Whether or not we acknowledge it, we are connected, woven together in our needs and desires, rich and poor, men and women, alike."

My thoughts drift to this past year, living with Gill in our humble little apartment in Northern Ireland. When she was at school or out, I often felt lonely and restless. And although we weren't poor, we had limited funds and so had to pick and choose our pleasures - like a trip to Belfast or even a coffee out. In many ways, this was good for us. We live in such an affluent society. As I sit here in my little house in the garden, behind the family home, I am also alone but this aloneness does not translate to loneliness.

I have lost my thread and see by the computer clock that I must shower and run. (Good excuse to leave an uncompleted thought. I haven't even mentioned numerous other areas that Griffin's passages on Paris called forth. There is so much I want to write about. I don't want to imitate Griffin even if I could - she is a master - but I love how she stretches thought and enriches me.)

Saturday, September 27, 2003

I should not write my blog in the afternoon because a censor is always looking over my shoulder. In the morning, my mind roams and wherever it stops, I write.

This morning, muddled and sleepy - I set the alarm as I had an early morning coffee date - and wrote in my journal that my mind is "wandering lonely as a cloud that floats on high..." I wonder now if it's pretentious to quote poetry in my blog - and then I think, "what the hell" if I stop and worry about what I sound like, I'll never write anything. (I was told by a writing teacher that if I think I'm being "clever", I should edit.) This reminds me of my mother: when she feels someone is being pretentious - stating lofty ideas - she sneers and says that the person is "full of herself." She allowed her daughters no pretensions.

Yesterday I worked 6 1/2 hours in the store. I dressed three "dummies" (mannequins) for the window in cashmere sweaters, pants, felt coats, and scattered branches of ivy (from home) at their base to represent fall. I received three shipments of clothing (haven't forgotten in a year, much to my surprise) and sat with Lucy who gave me instructions on how to navigate buying trips - forgetting that I'd taught her.

I had a moment of panic afterwards and worried again this morning, thinking how could I keep to my two days a week with so much to do. No one, now that Lucy is gone, seems to know anything. After a bit, I realized that I must learn to allocate and train - simplify processes - and I feel better.

In the evening, Rob and I went to see "Falling Angels", a Canadian film with Les, a friend of Helen's who I'd only met twice. How did this happen? A strange coincidence. He saw me working in the store window and dropped in to say hi. We discussed the film festival and voila, hours later we are in the lineup outside the theatre, waiting to buy tickets when a rather gorgeous looking male with a long ponytail (Rob said once that guys who have ponytails are asses but I find them sexy) came out, recognized Les, gave us free tickets, and ushered us inside to reserved seating.

The film was based on a book by Barbara Gowdy. Les thought it the Canadian equivalent to "American Beauty" only better. I thought it okay. Rob liked it but found the ending disappointing - what he thought should have happened was the actual ending to Gowdy's book. The story is stark and sad about an alcoholic mother played by Miranda Richardson, her three daughters who care for her, and her military husband who is a true pain. The acting was flawless but still my overall impression was that although worth watching, it looked like what it was - a low budget Canadian film.

After visiting this morning with a friend who I haven't seen since March, I drove downtown to pick up tickets for "The Far Side of the Moon" that's playing this evening. I am not a lover of the cinema but I heard from several friends who saw the play of this film, that the lone actor and story is brilliant.

Tickets bought, I found a small coffee shop and sat and read Susan Griffin. I am almost finished the book but don't want to hurry it: there is so much to think about. I love books that carry me away. Sometimes I think I live more in books than I do in life.

In the section that I read, Griffin is in Esalen and meets Emilie Conrad, a healer, philosopher of movement who becomes a friend and teacher. Griffin discovers through movement lessons "an astonishing range of experience, at once sensual and full of implicit significance." I'm not quite sure what she means and wonder if the body/soul work that Marlene will teach is similar.

My body loves me when I move in dance to music. It tells me where I am in my head - by the degree of self-consciousness I feel - but the best times are when I forget myself altogether. When I was in my teens and studying dance, I participated in competitions. One dress rehearsal, the music started and I began my routine. When the music stopped, I realized that I had no recollection of dancing but the people watching - four or five - kept staring strangely at me and then applauded. My teacher told me if I danced like that at the competition, I would win. I didn't. I only had this loss of self four or five times in my entire dancing career but since I couldn't or can't remember what triggered the altered state, I can't reproduce it at will.

(I worry at this point if I am boring. Oh dear.)

Griffin continues to say that the movement Conrad led her to was not habitual and so she sensed in herself new possibilities and found "a larger experience, vast really, with unimagined riches, like an undiscovered continent, a new world of the body."

When I returned home, Rob was standing in the living room, arms stretched high, parallel. He moved perpendicular to the floor with one leg stretched. He stood one foot touching the inside knee of the opposite leg. He was so graceful in these yoga moves that I stood staring. He is not a dancer and admits to being awkward on a dance floor and yet, here and now, he is coordinated, almost elegant.

I continue to think about the body.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Friday morning and I am aware of fall descending in the coolness of the air. I wonder how many more days I can slip on sandals - I have already worn closed shoes on several occasions - and my poor deformed feet hate being confined.

Yesterday Marlene and I went over to Langdale where Bette picked us up and drove us to her house in the woods. Her home sits on an acre of land and is surrounded by tall evergreens and garden. I felt as if I was in cottage country. The reality did match my dream. Everywhere there are flowering bushes, shrubs, and long-stemmed flowers, most arranged in circles. A park bench sits in a sunny spot where I sat and wrote in the afternoon. A stone rabbit, pig, and tiny temple on pillars that I think must have some symbolic significance sit also looking over the greenery and copious spider webs.

We were there around eight hours and the time passed quickly with talk, food, and a walk to the water. I really love these women. The conversation, I feel, was unguarded and free of pretense or affectation. Several times, several of us thought that we had revealed too much or perhaps were surprised at what left our lips but unlike in other situations when I have been open and worry that my words will be repeated to the wrong ears, I didn't feel that here.

Sometime in the afternoon, we did some proprioceptive writing. Bette lit candles and played music. She read a poem about death. I pause here. Was it about death? I can't remember: the phrase that sticks in my mind, the phrase I wrote about was "the shamelessness of men." I wrote that I do not understand men's shamelessness, "the chest pounding, the fist raised like the voice, the certainty, the bravado...." I think, as I read over all that I wrote - too intimate to tell - that men find it more difficult than women to be vulnerable or is it that they mimic their fathers and grandfathers who viewed uncertainty as weakness? Is this a cliche point of view? I question everything. It must be so damn difficult to be a man. I think this sometimes when I watch Rob sleep. I touch him lightly - his face, hair, or arm, careful not to wake him. It is only here that I see him vulnerable. He appears so self-assured when awake. And yet I know that this isn't always so.

This writing spree was good. I'm not sure if it is any different writing with others or alone. Perhaps the benefit is in reading one's writing aloud to others? I hear myself more clearly. Yesterday, I heard that I must sort out clouded thoughts on autonomy, worthiness, and relationship.

I must run now. It's Lucy's last day in store and I am going in for an unspecified length of time to help and gather information so I can work efficiently. This evening Rob and I may attend the Vancouver Film Festival if we can find something that interests us both.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I don't have much time today as I'm catching a ferry for the sunshine coast to visit Bette. I have this vision of her house surrounded by a beautiful garden, flowers everywhere. I wonder how close my idea is to the reality.

I've already been down to the water, reading, and drinking coffee. I've shopped at Capers for picnic items. Rob and I have been to the bank to sign papers that will amalgamate all our debt and make life easier - at least on the financial side.

Last night, I went to a meeting at Walter's and Lydia chaired the proceedings. (Lydia is Walter's new love and I wonder if I resent her a little on Leslie's behalf.) Lydia is a woman who thinks in a straight line. She definitely kept the focus on the store and operating procedure. I like her intelligence but find we clash a mite - which could very well mean that we are both stubborn women who like our own way. But I am pleased that my boundaries were cited - three months to put all in order - plus two buying trips. Now, I am actually looking forward to playing with display and organizing the receiving end. It appears that I have carte blanche and how I love to get my own way. ("Get." For some reason, I hate this word. It has a harsh edge.)

That's all the news for today. I continue to read Susan Griffin, loving her thoughts and style. I have just read her description of the Hotel Paiva, residence of one of the most famous courtesans of the Second Empire. She describes the decadence of the bedroom: "As a certain heat rises from these walls, you can almost feel yourself entering the interior of her body... There is a wish for sensual pleasure, of course, but sexual desire is made from so many different wishes, humble longings for love, longings that are venal and small, longings that lead us past ourselves."

I really don't know why I'm citing this passage. Perhaps because it resonates with me, in me. I think of the bio line I sent to Salon. I am still waiting to hear about Dangerous Liaisons.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Today disappeared. I was up reasonably early but didn't feel like public writing.

I picked Gill up at school mid-morning, took her to the dentist, and then drove her back to school. When Sonia, our dentist and friend, ask about my extraction yesterday, I felt like crying. I said that I was more psychologically than physically wounded. After the specialist pulled the tooth from my jaw, my mouth bled for two hours and remained frozen for five hours. Although it was a back tooth and isn't immediately visible, I feel its absence. I worry that my face will collapse. Sonia said that I've had more trouble with my teeth than any patient she has ever worked on. "Why?" I wonder.

I am ashamed of my mouth: I feel as if I have purposely set out to destroy my teeth. None of my sisters have spent as many hours in a dentist's chair as I have and all have better teeth. Now I have to decide what to do about the broken crown at the other side. Sonia thinks I should have it removed as well and wear a partial denture. I shudder when I hear that word. I feel decrepit. I can't even stand telling this. I feel as if I'm confessing some horrible crime.

After I delivered Gill, I went into LeslieJane and worked two hours. There were moments that were exasperating and others of pure pleasure when I was touching and displaying beautiful colours and textures. I showed another woman who works in the store what I was doing and why and she said that she learned more in a hour than she has the whole time she's worked there. I see that if I can pass on some of my retail expertise, I will have accomplished something. My goal is to simplify procedures so there will be fewer mysteries and everyone will be able to do all the work that has previously been in the hands of one.

I am at a loss for words. I sat at the water's edge this morning in Ambleside and wrote pages about my morning gloom that I was going to put into this blog but I've decided against it: I doubt that anyone would care to be taken into my private hell. That's the hard part about writing - what to include and what to omit. I suppose that's why many published writers and writing instructors say that one must know one's reader(s) but even if I do, I wonder if I can separate the mundane from the interesting.

I'm not feeling wondrously light and cheerful lately. I'm searching for a routine that pleases me, that makes me feel as if I"m living fruitfully. It will come.

Tomorrow I am going with Marlene to visit Bette on the sunshine coast. I'm looking forward to the excursion and the dialogue with these two good women.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Woke up singing the blues and then lashed myself for being such a miserable human being when I have such good fortune. Gill was sitting in the kitchen, looking beautiful, doing homework. Rob was up as he has an early production meeting and came over and gave me a kiss and hug. I made a good latte with a good coffee machine and moved out to my house in the garden - such a gift. Kate emailed me and told me that no news from Salon may mean good news. Karen emailed me the other day and said that it was good to hear that a "remarkable figure" like me - yes she actually used those words - "struggles at times with life." Kate said - through reading my blogs - that I was just turning inward to see what was happening and this is difficult. Marlene said the other day that admitting vulnerability was a "sigh of relief."

So why do I feel like crying? I am not writing the Great Canadian Novel. My days are disappearing. And I have to go to the dentist today and have a tooth removed when I have too few and still I persist in my refusal to wear a night guard.

I must leave now and dress for the great extraction. If I have any more inane or insane or whatever public thoughts, I may return and add to this cloud.

Interesting metaphor "cloud." Susan Griffin writes "To make one thing stand for another is the fundamental activity of consciousness. Neither thought nor feeling as we know them could exist without metaphor.... in the deepest sense, metaphor is itself symbolic. It both signifies and proves connection. Whenever you say a child's cheeks are apple red or you call an actor a star, you are weaving all existence--human character, culture,the cosmos--into one fabric."

Must run.

Monday, September 22, 2003

The idea of keeping a blog came from my eldest son, Brendan and I enjoyed (well most of the time) writing daily in Northern Ireland and France but now that I'm home I'm finding it more difficult to become inspired. When I was away, I was writing or so I told myself, for my family and friends back home. Now I tell myself that I am writing for my friends overseas but this is proving difficult. It's not that I don't love my friends and don't want to keep them up on my moods, thoughts, and doings, it's just that... well, it could be a number of things.

I have a list of feeble excuses. The weather has turned and it's cooler. I find myself wearing stockings and closed shoes that cause me misery. I'm spending too much time on this frivolous writing and need to direct my energy to grander writing projects that may make money. I have to oversee a larger house and all the stupid little jobs that require attention are too boring for words. (Does anyone really want to hear about the stack of laundry waiting by the washing machine?) But the real reason is that I am fighting myself and trying to tell my wayward tales without being disloyal or betraying those who are near and dear to me. And that's not the whole truth. I am afraid of self-exposure.

In my account of Victoria, I censored myself. I didn't tell about the moment when I said, "Don't touch me." Why? Too intimate? Not meant for public consumption? But I'm not exactly broadcasting on the BBC. And if Nancy Mairs can do it, why can't I? I have always said that I want to write about the things people don't talk about. I have quoted Maxine Hong Kingston, when she said in an interview: "There's a lot in society that says, 'Don't tell this secret, don't tell that... What you have to tell is not beautiful, or unacceptable, or too crazy...' It's always important to tell the truth because if you don't there are all kinds of terrible social and psychological consequences." I even had a character in one of my own stories say, "People are afraid of the truth. They're afraid if they show and tell all, they'll be judged by family or friends or that big man in the sky to be abnormal."

While in Victoria, I wrote out a quote from the Susan Griffin book I'm reading: "Despite temporary respites of small denials, the soul is bound up with honesty in some ways that cannot, except at great cost, be violated."

So, if I care about my soul and my writing, I need to speak the truth. Where am I at the moment? I'm wandering. It's exactly four weeks today or rather tonight that I arrived at Vancouver International from Paris. I thought all would be wonderful simply to be wrapped in Rob's arms and surrounded by family. And it is in many ways. I am no longer so alone. I have a few close friends who I adore and choose to spend time with. I'm not extending myself to others I like but who don't mean as much to me. I don't want to be always running. I'd say that I'm still adjusting. I miss the mood, the beauty, the language, the food and wine of France. I don't miss the cold and damp of Northern Ireland nor the persistent Catholic/Protestant division but I do miss the warmth of several people and the dancing.

I haven't quite settled. It's still one step at a time. Yesterday I went to a Dialogue group based on the proprioceptive idea of telling the subtext of one's thoughts. I was a little afraid at first sitting in a room with people I didn't know except for two. We were silent for ten minutes and then one woman spoke and others followed. The personality of each person came out with their words, carefully spoken and yet passionate. My own thoughts were flying. Several wondered what I was thinking being new. I liked the people and liked the ideas their ideas inspired.

Today I will do some proprioceptive writing and a few writing exercises before going to an "Introduction to Excel" this evening at a high school down the road. If I were in Northern Ireland, I'd be going line-dancing. I miss the women and their laughter.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

It's Rob's sister's birthday today. Happy Birthday, Kathy (in Sussex, New Brunswick.)

We arrived home last night from Victoria and I'm feeling unsatisfied as it wasn't long enough but grateful too for some time alone with this man of mine. We have not travelled together for over a year and I have forgotten what it's like to travel with a companion who does the driving, registers for a room, and pays the restaurant tabs. I am so used to being the one in charge that I felt a little lost at times.

We dropped our bags off at our rustic motel (defintely fifties complete with arborite table in a small kitchen) and walked to the main street where we split to wander to our own tastes and met at Munro's where I was tempted but didn't buy a book or two.

Victoria is pretty with its sweeping green green lawns and stately buildings of B.C.'s parliament and the equally grand Empress Hotel at the harbour, cental ville. Add to this the many British, Scottish, and Irish shops along the main street and I feel like I'm in a mini-London but then again, this is a university town and when I met up with Rob, he pulled out a joint and we smoked up on a secluded corner like we had in our university days in Toronto. I'd forgotten how happy one can feel when one smokes pot. (Natalie Angier noted in "Woman: An Intimate Geography" that - hold on, I want to find the quote - "marijuana can be a sexual mentor and a sublime electrician, bringing the lights of broadway to women who have spent years in frigid darkness." Not that I have but I will admit that some of the best times I've had making love have been under its influence.)

So we smoked and wandered from one restaurant to another, hand in hand, laughing about who knows what, until we finally found a small, intimate little French brasserie and luckily there was one table free. The food was delicious and not too pricey (this city appears to cater to American tourists with stuffed wallets) and then we returned to the hotel where Rob opened a box of low carb Rogers' chocolates that hit the spot although I am not a chocolate glutton or compulsive like some of my female friends.

In the morning, the eternal early riser, I slipped out and went to a cafe to read. I started What Her Body Thought by Susan Griffin, a book that describes her "shame" of being ill and juxtaposes it with the shame of Camille's tuberculosis a hundred years earlier. She writes not only of the betrayal of the body but of the betrayal of society. What Griffin feared most at the height of her illness (CFID) was financial ruin - losing her house and dying in the street - and compares this to the creditors of Camille (Alphonsine Plessis better known as Marie Duplessis) waiting for the famous courtesan to die in the next room so they can repossess her belongings.

I am also reading Nancy Mairs' Ordinary Time and the fear of poverty enters her tale. She speaks of buying a new refrigerator when both her husband's and her health is failing. She wonders why they would do such a thing that they can ill afford when neither might live to enjoy it. She concludes that humble humans need to believe we have a future.

So after reading a hour or so, I returned to hotel to find Rob still sleeping.

Later in the morning, almost noon, we met Thomas, Miranda, and the beautiful Isabella at "John's Place" for a hearty brunch. Thomas is playing "house husband" at the moment because he is a government employee and is on "maternity leave" or rather, "paternity leave." I like this use of my tax money. I like that fathers are involved with the raising of infants. And although Rob used to physically throw up if he had to change a dirty diaper in the morning, he did it. My father brags that he has never changed a diaper. Six children and he never changed a nappie? My poor mother.

After leaving our nephew and family, with an invitation to join us at Christmas, Rob and I split and wandered again. I browsed through a few used book stores, found a birthday gift for Gill, and went back to the hotel to read. Rob went for a Thai massage and joined me. He is still exhausted from the film from hell and is trying to feel physically able for his next job that starts in a week.

So, in the festive mood, we did a little of the illegal (but not criminal) stuff again, went out for Chinese food, and then to a jazz club where a skinny skinny Brazilian/Portugese sang jazz and Latin American music.

Our last morning, I slipped out and read, joined Rob for breakfast, and then splurged and had my hair cut and streaked at a downtown salon (where thank goodness the young woman knew what she was doing.)

We took a leisurely drive to Nanaimo and caught the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay. End of holiday. As I said in the beginning, not long enough but nice. Rob is an easy man to travel with. I fear I am the difficult one.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Woke this morning to the sound of rain and didn't want to get out of bed. It's not that I mind the rain so much if it comes, waters the garden, and leaves. I only worry that it's going to go on and on and on and my spirit will dampen like the earth. I remember a few years ago when I was working in the store and a woman came in, out of the rain. I moaned about the weather and she told me that she loved a good down-pour: she felt like a duck. As a child, I would squeal with delight when it began to rain. I'd run for my swimsuit and go out and dance on the lawn. I wonder if I can turn my head around or do a Helen Luke quarter-turn and learn to love grey skies and water from the heavens. Another rain story comes to mind. Many years ago, we took Brendan to a birthday party where there was a mix of adults and youngsters. It started to rain or was it hail? Whatever. One woman whipped her blouse off and bare-breasted, ran to the fenced back garden. She was like a goddess, head tilted upwards, dancing and twirling, laughing all the while. The children ran and joined her. After the party, Bren asked if we could have rain or hail at his party.

Rob and I are leaving for Victoria this morning sometime. I'm hoping we'll have some sun and some fun wandering around this "English" city. Perhaps we'll have tea at the Empress. We'll definitely go to Munroe Books. We'll visit my nephew and his partner and their beautiful 8-month-old Isabella. Rob and I haven't had a lot of time together since I arrived home and a week Saturday, he starts another film. I'm not taking my computer with me as we're staying at the "Crystal Court", an old funky motel, across from the Empress and I'm pretty sure that they won't have internet access so unless I find an internet cafe easily, I'm going to take a two day holiday from my blog. I have been religious about doing this daily journal since March when I began. Will I have separation anxiety, I wonder.

Speaking of religion, I went to the central library yesterday and picked up three books, including Nancy Mair's Ordinary Time. I love her writing. She doesn't mess around using fancy words or phrases. She tells the story of her life, her marriage, the meanderings of her thoughts, her emotional response to a situation - like adultery - without pretension, simply, and I, her reader, feel acutely her pain and her pleasure. How does she do it? I would like to write like her.

I will take three books and my journal with me but I'm hoping that I won't spend much time with them. What I really want is some good conversation with Rob. I continue to read Bette's poetry book (I am so thankful for it) and yesterday I found Marge Piercy's "To Have Without Holding" that reminded me a relationship with an Other takes effort. She writes, "It pesters to remember... what is owed to the work/ that gutters like a candle in a cave/ without air, to love consciously/ conscientiously, concretely, constructively." New stanza. "I can't do it, you say it's killing/ me, but you thrive, you glow..."

Oh dear, my mother once said that life's not supposed to be fun, that it's all about work and responsibility. I didn't agree with her. Still don't really but I do see her point. Perhaps we have to work in the Joseph Campbell sense, from our creative self, to play well, to laugh and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I woke up feeling defeated, didn't even check my computer for emails, didn't want cheer, didn't want talk, didn't want coffee, didn't know what I wanted. (That's a lie. I do know what I want but I won't say because underneath what I think I want, there may be the truth of what I want and I don't know if I want to know it or even if I can have it. Today nothing seems possible.) If I sound muddled, I am.

I dressed quickly in old jogging pants - now's that's a laugh. I don't jog but I like the comfort of loose clothing that doesn't show my body. My body, now that's another laugh. Last night Brendan said something like "Everyone knows you don't take care of yourself." I've been thinking about that. I thought I did take care of myself. Just because I forget to eat now and again because I don't know what I want, because nothing appeals, doesn't mean that I don't take care of myself. Does it? (I was grouchy last night because we went to Memphis Blues and we had to wait 40 minutes for a table.)

So I put on old jogging pants and a sloppy sweater and just as I was going out the door, Gill asked where I was going. I said, "out for coffee" although I wasn't sure. Anyway, she said something else but a car drove by and I couldn't hear what she said and when I asked her to repeat herself, she said it didn't matter. I was just about to drive away and then thought that I better find out what she was asking because it might matter. I went inside and found what she wanted was a ride to school. I made myself useful and drove her and then picked up a cheap coffee and went down to John Lawson Park with my journal and sat drinking that thin hot liquid at a picnic table. Directly in front of me, at another table, a crow walked, beak moving as if in conversation. Out on the water, two small fishing boats, moved. And I thought that perhaps I could describe the scene in this blog but I'm boring myself in my blog these days. Time to change my approach. If I describe a scene, it has to have a point. I hate description for description's sake.

I finished my coffee and went home. Rob was doing yoga on the living room floor. Now, here's a person who takes care of his self, I thought. (Why can't I have his discipline?) I asked whether he'd like a coffee and made a latte for him and me. (should that be myself? and I call myself a writer - now, that's another laugh. If I'm going to wallow, I may as well go all the way.) So I kissed him good-bye and told him that I love him and he said that he loved me and I came out to my house wondering about love. What do I mean by "I love you"? A proprioceptive question. I mean that I'm glad you exist. I'm happy to know you. (Know?) You make me feel good. I like your warmth. You make me feel that I'm not alone. I like spending my precious time with you. What do I mean by "precious"? That's the way I want to feel.

So, I'm moody today. I don't have to see anyone or do anything. The day is mine. Rob has left for a test shoot. Mike and Kirsten are in the big house but they're self-sufficient. I keep telling myself that once one's children reach the age of 21, they can take care of themselves. (Can I take care of myself? Yes!)

I went on the internet onto Amazon to find a book Marlene recommended but I can't bring myself to spend money. Now that's another joke. No, it's not a joke but I'm confused. When I was down at the water, I read Joseph Campbell's words about work versus job. I need to work but do I need a job? I have enough to eat when I can decide what to eat and a roof over my head so why do I need a job? So I can buy books? for autonomy? I'm still buying into the idea that one's worth is weighed by one's pay cheque.

My mind wanders. I checked the main library and three of the books I want are there and free. I plan to drive over later.

I am still not able to function so I reach for the poetry book that Bette sent me and read: "Dithyramb of a Happy Woman" by Anna Swir

I don't know what "dithyramb" means so I look it up:

1. A frenzied, impassioned choric hymn and dance of ancient Greece in honor of Dionysus.
2. An irregular poetic expression suggestive of the ancient Greek dithyramb.
3. A wildly enthusiastic speech or piece of writing.

This poem is magnificent. This is what I want...

Song of excess,
strength, mighty tenderness,
pliant ecstasy....

I quiver as a body in rapture...

There are gifts in me,
flowerings of abundance...

I am astonished...
I am gulping excess, I am choking with fullness,
I am impossible as reality.

Perhaps I must live abundance in my dreams. In my writing?

I have just finished reading Kits Law, by Donna Morrissey, chosen by Suzanne for my reading group. Although it is not a book I would have chosen, it wasn't too painful. Shoot. I'm trying to be nice. The writing wasn't bad but the story takes place in Newfoundland, a province I don't like for a reason I won't disclose. It's about three generations of women - a mother, her retarded daughter and her child, Kit, who is quick-witted like her grandmother. The cliche countrified town-folk do not like the family and when the grandmother dies, try to institutionalize the retarded woman and her child. But then, the kindly town doctor intervenes and they are allowed to stay on their homestead. Blow-jobs and murder follow. Then incest - or nearly when the daughter-bride finds out that her new husband is her brother, son of the wicked preacher.

Obviously I didn't care for the book. I prefer books set in the present day with contemporary themes. Is this true? I liked "Clara Callen." I usually like melodrama. But I shouldn't be so obnoxious. Suzanne liked it and it was winner of the "Canadian Bookseller's Association Libris Award" and a national bestseller. Go figure.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm home out in my little house burning incense. I love the smell of jasmine, musk, sandalwood, and patchouli. I feel exotic as the thin trail of smoke drifts upwards and fills my house or, should I call it, my office? I come here every morning to answer my emails, think, and write.

I'm a little lost at the moment. I don't know what to write about. My head is once again full of chores. The bed linen needs changed. The kitchen floor needs washed. I must sort and file all the envelopes of paper that arrive by mail. I rarely think of these things when I"m away from home. Why, I wonder. I do these things no matter where I am. I like organization.

Gill and I went for lunch yesterday and she said that she has befriended a new guy in the class. She remembers what it was like when she started school in Northern Ireland. She also tells me that she and her friends are more serious about their studies this year. She wants to prove to herself that she can do it. Every day, she changes her mind about what she wants to do next year. Yesterday, she thought that she would like to go and live in London a year before she begins university. Tomorrow she may think differently.

Last night, Rob made turkey burgers and Mike and I made a salad, and then both left - Rob went to a location meeting and Mike went with Kirsten to a concert.

Gill and I were alone once again. She wrote a poem about fear and read it aloud as I cleaned the kitchen. Based on her poem, I think she fears conformity and hypocrisy most. I have reached a time in my life when I don't fear them: I dislike them but sometimes it's difficult to decide whether what I'm doing is conforming or original, sometimes I think I know nothing so I grasp what is at hand and work. What's it all about anyway? Consciousness? This morning I'm having coffee with Helen. Perhaps, she knows.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The day's a little cloudy as is my brain although I actually sent my article "Dangerous Liaisons" out this morning to Salon. I will not think of it again - at least for several weeks - unless they contact me. I also registered for a 6-hour EXCEL course at a high school just down the street as I must catch up on the financial end of our business (and also work out the true cost of the French writing workshop.) The practical enters my life once again.

Yesterday, Rob and I went out to Coquitlam to visit Clare and Basil to straighten out yet another expense from France this past summer. All is well there as Basil is scrupulously fair.

All is not as well with Clare. She began Chemo treatment last week and is too thin and off and on sick. She also cut her hair short as she will lose it all in a matter of weeks. She says that it's a small price to pay for life.

Today, I am picking Gill up at school at 1 as she has no classes this afternoon, and we plan to go down to the beach for lunch. Both of us feel are feeling deprived of each other's company after so much time together in Northern Ireland and France. Now, she is either doing school work or off with her friends.

I will return to another writing project this afternoon.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

My mind is still fighting a body that wants to sleep late and disrupt its pre-dawn hours when all is lazy and hazy and time isn't an issue. So here I am Sunday morning at 10:10 a.m. thinking that I must write fast if I want to be ready to drive to Coquitlam and visit Clare and Basil and settle the car and house account from France this summer. (And I still must find the pertinent bills and their house keys.)

Last night, Rob and I went to the Sweet Basil Jazz Festival and saw a triple bill at the Stanley. The evening began with the "Tango Paradiso Quartet", followed by the "Michel Pan Quintet, and then the star attraction, Mark Murphy, a jazz vocalist whose voice has been equalled to that of Ella Fitzgerald, came on stage. I'm not even going to try to assess their musical talent as I don't have a good ear but Rob's knee was moving in time to the music all evening - a good sign that all three had talent.

When I try to recall impressions this morning, I remember one fellow in the "Tango Paradiso" played a bandoneon (I checked the spelling) that the musician, Douglas Schmidt, said was created in the 19th century as an alternative to the church organ but quickly found its way into brothels. It looks like a square accordion and emits similar sounds but is softer and sexier. Rob said that some of the numbers sounded "French," like the music you'd hear in a Parisian nightclub.
Michel Pan's Quartet played a "Tribute to Chet Baker" and the one song I remember is "My Funny Valentine" that naturally reminded me of Frank Sinatra although Pan's voice wasn't strong. Rob told me that Baker was a rare jazz musician because he not only played well but sang well too. Unfortunately, he self-destructed early. I can't remember if booze or drugs killed him.
The star of the show, Mark Murphy is a huge man and I wondered two things when he strode onto stage: a) if he was wearing a wig (Rob said yes, an old one) and b) if he was drunk (Rob said maybe a little.) It's good to have an authority along. I remember Lynn Bowen, the non-fiction prof at UBC calling her husband "the little dictator." (Although why I should think of that here is beyond me. Rob does not dictate. Or rarely.) Murphy began with poetry (the man has to be good) and then sang a number of song and his voice, at times, sounded like a musical instrument. If he hadn't been wearing that damn wig, I might have appreciated him more. Several of the other musicians had shaved heads. It's in. So does my Mike. So why can't Murphy, at 71, go au naturelle?

The evening was fun. Nice to go out on a Saturday night and not sing the refrain: "It's Saturday night and I ain't got nobody, got some money 'cause I just got paid."

And the rest of the evening was illegal. (That's a joke.)

And I just heard from Shirley that she is a copycat. She started her own daily journal. So two plums are seeking fame and fortune on the web (or maybe just writing practice.) She's an amazing writer so if you want to catch some of her thoughts, go to Shirley's Blog.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

I'm feeling better today. Left early, picked up Helen, and went to Granville Island. We drank coffee, ate almond croissants, and chatted. Afterwards I picked up tickets for a Sweet Basil Jazz event this evening (love the name), some fresh fruit and vegies, and then drove over to Commercial, Italian area and Helen introduced me to a real Italian grocery. The dry food products, meats, olives, and cheeses come straight from the homeland and are exceptionally well priced - well worth the drive once in a while.

Rob is in a great mood today. He is so happy to be finished the film from hell and is lounging around in his dressing gown, reading script and stage directions for "Cat Woman", his next film (with Sharon Stone and I don't know who else.) Kirsten and Mike just left to meet Brendan in Gastown for a movie.

And my beautiful Gill is also wandering around in her dressing gown after having cleaned up a small mess outside from her "can-I-have-a-few-friends-over" party last night. (I'd hate to find out what she considers a real party.) When I came in, after having noodle soup out with Kirsten, there were young people everywhere, music roaring, beer flowing, and more than one empty bottle of vodka on the counter. Many of the guys who I've known since kindergarten, are now big and tall with hair on their faces. And the girls - can I still call them girls with their woman breasts? - have also grown taller and more curvaceous. This is the grad class of 2004.

I slipped passed them, had a bath, and crawled into bed to read, but when I heard Amie calling out that it was time everyone left (it was 11 p.m.) I slipped a velvet coat over my nightie and went down to see if there was a problem. There wasn't. Several guests had invited other guests and Gill and her friends thought they'd stop the fun before anything happened. They were going to go down to the beach where they wouldn't disturb anyone. I had a chance to talk briefly with a number of the teenagers, before they left, and they were coherent and lovely. Nice kids, I thought.

Gill told me today that her friends thought I was "cool" because I didn't freak out about the booze. It's not that this doesn't worry me. These kids are under age and I could get in trouble. I have no answers here but I don't want to ban them from our home. I know that they are going to drink whether I see them or not. I'd rather be able to keep an eye on them. I also have to admit that I think the legal age a little ridiculous. They can drive at 16 but not drink till 19. I think this should be reversed. And I'm used to France where the young can drink at any age with their parent's permission.

Enough for now. I am sitting in my garden house with only a tank top on and I'm feeling chilly. It's beginning to feel like fall although the morning glories are still growing, blossoming, and choking the vegetables in Rob's garden. I pulled a few vines aside and discovered three aubergines and several green beans. The tomato plants are still bearing baby tomatoes and the blackberry bushes are loaded with fruit so hopefully the sun will remain for a little longer.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I have too much on my mind so I showered and escaped this morning, went to Torrefazione where I bought 12 oz of ground coffee and received a free capuccino and sat and read Shirley's poetry notebook or rather poetry from a workshop she attended.

Shirley will say that I am biased but I'm not. I liked her three poems best and between those three, I fluctuate between "story" and "floating." She is like e. e. cummings in her refusal to use caps in her headings. I wonder what would happen if she refused them throughout her poetry. I'll give a sample from "floating" (caps intact):

I watch language spill on to the page
I go bathing in the shallows,
swim long strokes to the deep water,
roll with the waves and explore

Next to Shirley, I liked the poems of Adrienne Drobnies, although her poetry reminds me of Sylvia Plath's pain. I heard Plath read "Lady Lazarus" yesterday, a BBC recording that she did several weeks before she died. (Death must have been on her mind.)

is an art, like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.

Brendan told me about the BBC site yesterday. Click here to hear Writers
and here to hear Poets.

I finished my coffee and went to see my friend the dentist. She said that, as a friend, she is worried and doesn't know what to do. She thinks I should seek a second opinion about my broken crown. She has asked other authorities and they all apparently think me a fool for refusing to use a mouth guard. I asked her to check another problem tooth. She tells me it is cracked and has to be removed. I am paying for my obstinacy. I wonder what my mouth is trying to tell me. Is this the beginning of my demise?

I am depressed and walk to the park and read two poems from a book Betty sent me that I received yesterday. It's called Risking Everything. The first one I read is by Marie Howe and is called "My Dead Friends." When she (Howe) is weary and can't find an answer to a question, she asks her dead friends and they always answer "whatever leads/to joy..." I grind my teeth and turn the page (maybe I should wear a mouth guard during the day) and read "Today, Like Every Other Day" by Rumi:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened> Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

I hate days when I can't conjure up beauty, when I feel restless and unsatisfied, when I don't know what to do next although I have a dozen things on my to-do list.

I went home and saw Rob just as he was leaving for his last day of work. He is smiling. He wants to go to the Sweet Basil Jazz Festival tomorrow. He feels free. I tell him I'm depressed but don't want to talk about it. What can I say in the two minutes he has left before he has to leave? It'll probably take me all day to unravel the strings that lead to the source. Perhaps it is simply overwhelming being back home.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It is September 11th and I cringe, thinking of airplanes flying into highrises and people jumping to their death. I cannot bear to see these sights again. I will not turn on the T.V., I think, but then realize that we have no television. Rob stopped the cable service in the summer as there was too much junk being broadcast. I rarely turned it on anyway but there were times when I wanted to stop my thoughts and simply vegetate in front of some mindless dribble.

I am again writing late. This morning Gill wanted to go out for breakfast so instead of my slow entrance into the day, I dressed and drove down to Capers with her but found their restaurant doesn't open till 8. We grabbed a coffee and scone and sat outside, talking about this and that. She told me that she had been discussing my article with her friends yesterday in a restaurant and they wondered if the repeated use of "clitoris" was attracting attention.

Is it only females, I wonder, who engage in such intimate talk? Do men discuss, for instance, the mechanisms that cause the penis to rise? I sat with Marlene and Shirley last night and we had a similar discussion to my daughter's as I'm still trying to find the one line that will grab an editor and make her want to read my article and then hopefully buy it. It will appear today - the query line that is.

I drove Gill to school and with all the stops and starts up the hill to Sentinel, the car started acting up. The clutch wasn't engaging and I smelt a weird odour so I drove it down to the garage and walked home.

I have much to do in the writing department today. I am feeling motivated but the day will be fragmented. I have an appointment at the bank this afternoon. I want to amalgamate all last year's debt including credit cards into one low-interest loan (living a dream does not come cheap.) Speaking of debt, I spoke with Walter yesterday about work. I told him that I did not want to get drawn back into store, that after Les' death, I severed all ties. He explained that I have some useful information he needs. He is trying to simplify procedures and run the business himself. He knows and I know I could help him do this. So I asked, being absolutely clear, what if I agreed to give him no more than two days a week, lasting no more than three months, at an increased salary? Would that work? I also said plainly that I would not sell or do any other function other than reorganizing and simplifying the receiving and pricing of merchandise. No, this is not quite accurate. I would go on a buying trip with him to San Francisco and show him how to work with the sales representatives. He said that works for him. So I am still pondering taking on the work but first I will speak to the store's bookkeeper to make sure that what I have in mind will work. Brendan and a couple of friends warned me not to go back but I'm thinking with such firm boundaries, it may be worth it. I can put off finding a more time-consuming way of earning a living and write my little heart out five days a week.

So, now with my blog discipline done, I will move onto some writing projects. Oh yes... Brendan and Shirley informed me that "blog" comes from "web log."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

It's Wednesday, garbage day, raining. Early morning, I had my first three-person conversation on MSN Messenger about writing and publishing, with Kate in Frankfurt and Erin in Toronto. (I am in awe of such technology.) I am panicking. I didn't know how to save the conversation. But that's not why I'm panicking.

I'm meeting with Marlene this afternoon to discuss once again my writing. In recent calm moments, I have surprised myself and felt confident, more confident than I ever have. I know I know how to string words together. Sometimes my sentences even have rhythm. But, but... what is my problem?

At noon, I'm meeting with Walter to discuss working at the store. This would be so easy. Or would it?

What shall I wear today? When this question pops into my head, I know I am in trouble. I have to decide who I want to be.

I think I'll try some proprioceptive writing. I'm blocking every thought that comes into my head. If I learn something, I'll blog again.

"Blog" sounds like throwing up to me. Is this what it's all about? I have always aligned the word with "log". Why the "B"?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I'm getting later and later posting my blog. The problem, if it is a problem, is I'm actually doing other writing. I was unhappy with the ending of "Dangerous Liaisons" and have reworked it a tidge. (Honest Kate.) I am still trying to think up one great line that encompasses all the swell ideas that I've outlined in the article (I was going to say "brilliant" but decided a more modest adjective is "swell" - has a country and western twang that I like.)

The problem with me, if indeed it is a problem, is I have an one-track mind when I'm doing a project. All else is ignored. I didn't even say good-morning or bye to Gill this morning. She was gone by the time I returned to the big house for coffee. (I am missing her. We had so much time together in Europe.)

I wish I had half Marlene's discipline. I read her article "Simple Days: A Coda" in "The Diarist's Journal" yesterday, at the water's edge in Ambleside. She compares the year she spent writing her public journal to a women lost in the woods (although she admits she wasn't as lost as the wanderer she describes.) She had no idea where her writing would take her but this didn't bother her. She was interested in the journey. I can't imagine Marlene lost. She has such clarity of purpose. She conceived "Simple Days" many years before she wrote it. She kept "a journal of questions, reflections and insights on the topic of simplicity." Although she did not know what form the work would take, she finally alit on journal format - why does this not surprise me - describing a displaced Canadian, over the period of a year, trying to live simply and with "clarity of purpose" in what is probably the largest, most cosmopolitan, craziest city in the US, New York City. When the completed manuscript was in the hands of her agent, and she knew that it may never find a publisher, she didn't sweat or worry. "[T]he year's process had been invaluable. The journal writing had been so rich and insightful for me that it was its own reward..." If I hadn't seen this woman, running around in her underwear and cursing the motionless air in the south of France, I would think her a saint. (I'm glad she isn't. I've even known her to be a brat at times.)

Last night, Bren came over and hopefully fixed my computer problems. (The internet connection is working from my writing house now.) I made a stir-fry for dinner. We visited Mike at his coffee shop and then Bren, Kirsten, and I drove to the Chapter's store on Broadway as I had to find a gift for Lucy's baby shower tonight. We must have spent a hour in the children's section reading Dr. Seuss books and the like. I finally decided on Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny. Reading "Goodnight Moon," was a bed-time ritual when all three of my children were little. And all three still remember it. I read somewhere that the more books a child owns, the more secure she or he is. I hope this is true.

Enough. I'm hungry.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I am not over-brimming with pleasure this morning and I'm not sure why. I have been re-reading Natalie Angier's "Woman: An Intimate Geography" searching for information on pleasure, specifically on the clitoris for "Dangerous Liaisons." (If I only knew in my youth, what I know now, I may have lived it differently.) Unfortunately knowing the source of pleasure, does not always induce it.

I am angry also that my internet connection is being difficult. It wouldn't work in my garden house and so I have had to come up to the big house to go on-line. When I am here, a hundred stupid jobs call out to me. "Damn it," I am trying to write.

What does it take to believe in oneself? Is everyone as fragile, as moody, as I am? I think of Susan who announces often, in no indefinite tone of voice, that she is an intellectual. And yet, when Marlene asked her about her writing, she said, in that same tone: "I am not a writer." She writes almost every day, hours on end. She has four chapters of an autobiography written and yet she claims not to be a writer. I wish I had asked her how she defines "writer" if the activity of writing is not enough.

When I am feeling definite, I call myself a writer. What do I mean? I write every day: witness my blog. I try to sell my writing (without a great deal of success.) I moan and groan about too many writers out in the world. I am moody which translates to artistic temperament. I own a good fountain pen.

Wenda was depressed on Saturday. She has reason. She gave us all (Shirley, Vaughan, and me) some copy by Joseph Campbell for inspiration. He differentiates between one's work and one's job. One's work is one's "life-fulfilling field of action." One's job is that which one does for money, to keep dry and fed. Campbell suggests that one only do a job to earn a base income. "You are developing, not in your job, but in your artistic work. The artist must build a structure, not in the way of being of service to society, but in the way of discovering the dynamism of the interior. To do that, you must seal off a certain number of hours each day..."

I adore Campbell and believe him and yet I still feel like a slug, crawling from big house to little house in my attempt to educate myself, to write, to find pleasure.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Sunday morning and all are asleep in the house. Last night my sister, Donna, came to dinner with her new amour (I like the use of the French word. I could also have used "paramour" defined as "by way of love." Either, in my mind, are spicier words than "love" or "lover.") Donna is radiant. She and Stirling have just spent nine days together at Whistler and recommend a string of days alone together for Rob and me. (We are planning to escape to Vancouver Island for three or four days in a week and a half when Rob has finished his difficult film and attended a production meeting for "Cat Woman," his next shoot)

I ironed a white cloth and set the table for four. Gill called and said she would join us. I added another place setting. As I was tossing the salad and steaming the asparagus, Mike and his South African friend, Kirsten, walked in the door. I added two more place settings and lit nine candles. Rob was cooking marinated flank steak on the barbecue. (Brendan will be envious when he hears this.) I paused and wrapped my arms around Rob. He wrapped his around me. This is our first dinner party of sorts since I came home and yet, it feels natural this preparation of and serving a meal together. I am content.

I am feeling more settled this morning. The dishes from last night are still on the dining-room table but I looked the other way and came out to my garden house. I have answered some emails and am thinking that I must organize myself this morning. I still haven't cleared the floor nor filed my papers. I have reading and writing I want to complete. Too much. I must make a list and become more methodical. This afternoon, I will go with Rob to Granville Island and attend a Fringe Festival event.
I tried to go online this morning but the server "blogger" did not allow it so here I am at 3:30 in the afternoon. I did write my blog at the late hour of 7 a.m. in my private journal and I will add it now.

Yesterday afternoon, Gill and I drove over to Kits Beach and met Bren for a picnic. Gill assembled the salad, boiled the eggs, cut watermelon into bite-size pieces. I washed plums and wrapped the cold meat. In consideration of Bren's no-carb diet, no bread or starch was included. Bren said that it wasn't the weight loss he was originally interested in, although he has lost thirty pounds, but the energy gain. Rob said that he will go on the Aiken's diet when he finishes the film for the same reason. He feels sluggish and tired all the time. He came in at 5 this morning, mumbling about the production company's inhumanity to the crew and I asked him what he was complaining about: he had only worked a twelve hour shift.

Yesterday he reminded me of the night in Mexico City, during the Romeo and Juliet shoot, when I decided to stay up all night and watch the filming to get a sense of how he felt. I remember around 4 or 5 in the morning groaning about fatigue, near tears: I could hardly hold my body up and if I could have left without losing my dignity I would have but couldn't so stoically remained. Rob told me to multiply this feeling by ten and I would know how he felt. He has one week to go. Thank the gods.

Speaking of the gods, I went to a lecture at the planetarium with Helen last night to hear Claire Dunne speak of her latest book, "Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul." Dunne, an Irish woman, tall, with signature bouffant hair style, began by saying that she is not a Jungian nor is she a psychologist. She has been asked many times, why then did she write a biography of Jung. She said she felt impelled to tell the personal story of his life. She felt that his life from age 69 onwards, the "funny" (not ha ha) period, had often been neglected. She said that Jung came to her more than once in her dreams and gave his permission.

As I know little of Jung's life, I found many of her quotes of interest but Dunne read her lecture and I found myself shifting around often and yawning. Still I'm glad I heard her speak. I like having a personal picture of people I admire. I was surprised to learn that Jung not only had a wife a five children but another woman in his life - Toni Woolf who "introduced him to Eastern spirituality, helped free his intuition from the bonds of his intellect, and brought him back to everyday reality if he was losing himself." (Quote from review of Dunne's book by Rob Couteau.) Today, thinking about Dunne's title, I realize that I don't really understand "wounded".

After the lecture, I went back to Helen's, drank white wine, ate grilled chicken (delicious), and Helen and I talked about lecture and also of our friendship and how we were happy to be sitting on her balcony once again together under a moon and stars.

I ended my writing here ( a little frantic as I had a plum meeting at 9:30) and when I could not get on the internet, I ran to the house, threw on some clothes and left. I still feel a little out of my element here. I have yet to design a schedule that feels "right" and does not leave me frantic, wondering where my day has disappeared.

Friday, September 05, 2003

This is going to be short. I wrote my blog earlier this morning and tried to post it. It was probably the most brilliant writing I have even done but Blog technicians were updating their site. My text disappeared and I haven't been able to find where they put it. I was angrier then than I am now.

C'est la vie. I didn't really do much yesterday. I filed accumulated papers and bills that Rob had collected since my last visit. I talked to Gill about her English course. She will be studying such books as Canterbury Tales, The Tempest, Jane Eyre and a slew of great poetry written by such authors as Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and John Donne. (I was pleased to hear that the classics aren't dead as Robert Bly and Marion Woodman lamented in a workshop they gave together last year.)

We began making dinner together but she did most of the work as I was immersed in a Salon article by David Bowman "The Sex Woman", an interview with Erica Jong who spoke of her first novel "Fear of Flying" and the expression that made her famous - "zipless fuck." (Can I use this language on a blog?) The most interesting part of the interview for me, beyond the fact that her next novel is about Sappho, is where she discusses a recent lecture she gave at Barnard. The students were studying "Fear of Flying", "Madame Bovary", and "Anna Karenina." Jong asked them what they identified with in her novel. They said, and this is a quote, "'Double standard is alive and well.' A girl who is open about her sexuality is considered a "slut." There is more. Apparently women whose coming-of-age happened in the late '70s and '80s lived in "the golden age of sex." Jong says it is gone. Now "[t]here is a lot of retro sexuality going on. Kids are having a lot more sex, but most of it is servicing the man. The 14-year-olds and the 15-year-olds who are giving oral sex (but don't consider it sex) have figured out a way to get power from men, but they are not getting orgasms or enjoying it. It's just a power maneuver."

This is so sad. What about their own sexual power and pleasure? I thought that my article "Dangerous Liaisons" might be out of date but I now think not.

I went to bed at 9 p.m. thinking that I would rise early but I didn't. I may have to set an alarm so I will have enough hours in my day.

I met my friend Maggie at noon down at Horseshoe Bay. She is a painter and designer and is finding Vancouver a dull place to live or, at least, uninspiring. "There isn't even a good book store." She is hoping that by accepting several residencies abroad each year, she will find the inspiration she needs. I hope so. She is another wild gypsy, a lover of books and art.

Revelations of a Traveller 

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

Today I'm really ticked off. I slept in until after seven. I lost those precious morning hours when I believe that I am the only person awake and so I do as I please. No matter that this doesn't make sense. By the time I stumbled downstairs, Gill had already had breakfast, made her school lunch (all healthy stuff - what else do we ever keep in this house. Grumble, grumble.) She was dressing for school. I think it was easier in Northern Ireland where she knew what she had to wear every day. I made a coffee and came out to my house in the garden and checked my emails. Among others, I received a long message from Karen in Northern Ireland. Strange as I was thinking about her just yesterday and wondering if she was still following my blog, wondering why I hadn't heard from her.

Yesterday noon, I had lunch with Lucy, the manager of my dead friend's store. How cold this sounds although I speak the truth. Leslie died over a year ago and I often think of her extravagant gesture, her love of colour and texture, her artistic approach to almost everything. I'm pretty sure that she's angry she's dead but then again, if there is life after death, if there is another, "better place", it has to be more serene and easier than this one.

Lucy wants me to work while she has her baby and nurtures her (yes, she knows it's a girl) for six months. I can choose my own hours to price and merchandise in-coming shipments. She tells me that store policies have changed and outlines these changes. Walter is in charge. I have left this store for good three times and Brendan reminded me this morning of how much time and energy it stole from my day-to-day life, especially my writing life. I can't do things by half and here's a scary thought - neither could Leslie. What to do? I will talk to Walter before I decide. My initial reaction is "why not?" I need the money. I know the job, even like aspects of it but, but... I was trained by Les, the perfectionist. I liked her way of doing things. And there's another reason: I'm arrogant and stubborn. I don't like being told what to do and how to do it. What if Lucy or Walter chastise me? tell me that things have changed? that I must change and do things the new way? Would this cause too much inner turmoil? I try to be adult. Would this inner turmoil, if it appears, be good for my soul?

My soul struggles as it is. I really do want to get on with my writing but I also feel a real need to be financially independent or, at the very least, financially helpful. Rob never pushes me to earn, never criticizes me, or balks at my freedom to chase dreams. He is envious but never mean-spirited. I know he would like the same freedom. What to do? The problem is that even if I found a full time job, I would make only a fraction of what he earns and we struggle now. Would this sacrifice make sense? I need a little time to think this through.

After my lunch with Lucy, I returned home, finished report for UBC, and Mike drove me over Burrard Bridge and dropped me: he needed the car to pick up a friend from the airport. I walked along the water and admit, although my love for the French countryside never wavers, it is beautiful here. The sun is hot. There are near-naked bodies sprawled everywhere. I eavesdrop on a conversation between a lovely, long blond-haired, young woman in jeans and sweater(much too warm for the day) and a tall, lanky, bare-chested, young man. "I want you to stop and listen," his voice rises with each word. "I have nothing to say to you," she screeches back. Head are turning in their direction but both are too angry to care. She marches ahead. He, head down, follows. Relationships. Why, I wonder, is it so difficult to love an Other? Why didn't the young woman stop and talk to her bronzed young man? Had she tried before? Was he the difficult one then? I read somewhere that aa apt definition for love is "rapt attention." Why is it so difficult to pay attention, to listen? I am so aware of this difficulty that I try, I try very hard, to open my ears, to focus on an Other speaking, to hear their words. I am not always successful but I am better at listening than I used to be.

I walk along the beach to Marlene's apartment. I show her pictures that have just arrived from Bedding in France. There are several very good ones of Marlene. She looks like a ballet dancer with her long neck, fine features, long dark braid, and hot pink floral tank top, tucked into a matching full-length skirt. (I feel as if I have returned to writing advertising copy here.) (Why not? This blog is always an experiment and I play with ideas. I often refer to it as self-indulgence.) As we're talking - and after I have twisted her hair into a braid - Steve returns, dressed in matching blue shirt and pants. (Now I am becoming playful.) He kisses me. I like this gentle man. We drive to 10th, have coffee, talk, catch Ramona walking by in a long black summer shift, floral pattern repeated, but on a smaller scale, on wide bordered hem. She tells us that it is a gift from her mother.

We move to a restaurant a few doors down for dinner. I forgot to say that Ramona is in charge of the Writing Centre at UBC and responsible for the summer workshop in France. Marlene and I tell her "hot" tales from the workshop and, as we talk, every excerpt is more colourful, more animated than its origin. All sounds "fun". Even the heat is humourous. How can this be? I haven't forgotten the airless, sleepless nights. Why then does description after-the-fact flavour experience?
The conversation did have serious moments and I think, that we will repeat the workshop with a change here and there next year.

Marlene and I ended the evening at a coffee shop somewhere near where Marlene lives. More juicy conversation. I caught a bus home.

I think I have gone on too long. It's nearly noon and I haven't even washed or dressed. I have no idea what I will attack today.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Oh dear. I woke later than usual: the sky is light and I have so much I want to accomplish today. My morning is full of writing and reading. First, I must finish a report. Why do I persist in doing everything at length? Gill would say it's because I want to do everything well but I'm not sure that she's correct. I can't seem to hurry anything. Is this a sign of age? No. I've always been as slow as molasses. I know this is a cliche but I love the image. I can still see myself holding that damn waxed container and pouring the thick liquid into a measuring jug - I can't remember the recipe - but I did it often and I still feel the same impatience. No matter at what angle I held the box, the thick syrup refused to descend at any great speed.
Milan Kundera wrote a book called, Slowness in which he describes, if I remember correctly, how people are moving too quickly in the world today. Speed has become a kind of god and to experience pleasure, sexual and other, according to Kundera, one must slow down.
Speaking of sex, Kate asked me to read "Salon", the online magazine, and specifically the sex section as part of my tutorial. (I will not explain her reason or specific instructions as this is an experiment.) I began with the "Art Galleries" and learned about Paul Gauguin's Erotic Life a review on this book that describes Gauguin as a beastly husband, as a catalyst to Van Gogh's madness, as a fornicator who loved to impregnate women.
The next article was an interview with Dr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, who has a passion for photographing nude woman in eerie light that makes them appear other-worldly.
I moved to feature articles and read of a love affair in a Paris hotel room from a male point of view. Interesting as the language verges on the erotic but is more matter of fact. The author describes his penis as his penis. (Nancy Mairs wrote of her husband's "penis" too but her story was much more poignant.)
Finally I read a review of Against Love: A Polemic. The author, Laura Kipnis describes marriage as a social institution, as a way to civilize the masses. "The point is that marriage, which ostensibly jerks us into a lockstep of manageability that should ideally last a lifetime, serves society more than it serves the human spirit. And that's where the idea of adultery as civil disobedience comes in." I read two reviews of the book and both reviewers agree that Kipnis is not against love or marriage or, for that matter, adultery, she is simply telling us where all stand today. She also touches on the theme of speed, writing that too many people are in too much of a hurry. There is little time for exploration and pleasure.

So after all this ramble, I've decided it is not a bad thing to be slow as molasses.

Yesterday, I did take one step at a time and I managed to do what needed to be done. And I did stop and pause while Mike made a caesar salad for lunch. We sat outside and Gill joined us after her first day back at Sentinel. She said that she didn't recognize many of her friends - especially some of the guys who have grown taller, leaner, and who now have facial hair. But she is more interested in her timetable - what subjects to take. Should she do P.E. because it not required, but she's interested in diet and exercise? Will her geography teacher her two credits for the intensive course she took in N.I.?
She lay down after lunch and fell asleep. (She and her Grad friends partied late or rather into the early hours, went to breakfast at Denny's, and then grabbed a few hours of sleep at a friends, before school.

I paused again for dinner. Gill prepared a salad. I picked fresh baby tomatoes from the garden (which are as good as the French ones) and fried them in a little olive oil with fresh basil. Mike added lemon and Gill a selection of spices and voila - well not quite - we boiled Rob's exotic expensive low-carb pasta - poured a little wine and feasted.

My evening disappeared with more reading and writing and I went to bed alone. I have no idea when my poor man arrived home. (Well as he would say, "only eight more get-ups.")

Lucy just called and I am meeting her for lunch to discuss work. Will I or will I not return to the store? She is having a baby in October and wants me to cover her. We'll see. The money would definitely come in handy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I am feeling incapacitated today. Yesterday a shadow passed over me and I feared that I was revealing too much of myself in my blog and emails. I wonder if I should shut up and whisper sweet-nothings. What are some sweet-nothings? Cliches? This morning I received an email from Kate who said that she was inspired by many things in my blog. (Thank you, Kate. Your timing was perfect.) On days like this, I am reminded of Natalie Goldberg who said something like "when frozen, take one small step at a time."

I pinch myself. I am at "home". I am out in my writing house. What more could I want? I came out earlier and began unpacking envelopes of paper that I had crammed in my suitcase in France. There are folders of bills and accounts, notes from the writing workshop, research material, and a mass of attempts at my novel. I looked at the mess and felt so helpless that I locked the door, and went up to the house and made Rob a latte before he left for work. I kissed him. As I write this, I wonder will my kiss help him through his day? What difference does my presence make? I ask this only in curiosity. What difference did my absence make? He had to take care of the small details meaning the house, the shopping, and the accounting. He said his Saturdays were taken up with duties. Every morning he made his own coffee and left without saying a word, without a kiss. KISS. Someone once told me that kiss means "Keep It Simple Stupid." I wonder if loving an Other is that simple. Is it simply sharing the work load with a signature touch of the lips? I am at a loss as to where to take this. Perhaps I should try some proprioceptive writing. I still can't alight.

My small house is a complete disaster: there is no floor space and I know that I will soon have to attack and clean and sort.

But one step at a time. First, I wil finish my blog. I have been so disciplined that I don't want to fall apart now. Then I will answer emails, write a casual report on writing workshop for UBC for a meeting tomorrow, and then I have a reading assignment to do for Kate. I have agreed to be a guinea pig. She is testing out an idea for an on-line private tutorial, "with a view of helping people get their first publishing credit in a newspaper or magazine." Kate did not have to twist my arm: I'd do almost anything for her but this will hopefully benefit us both.

After I take all these steps, I will return to the big house and clear carpet space. I have a rug and upholstery cleaner coming at two in the afternoon who will hopefully remove all the accummulated dirt and stains from a year of neglect or rather, manly use.

As I note all this, I keep having flashes of Gill. She left last night with three friends for a "grad sleep-over." They will party all night and sleep(?) in the school as a celebratory way to begin their last year of high school. I am so hoping that the year away will have made a difference to her studies, that she will dream bigger, and be happier.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Writing this blog every morning is like writing free flow although more controlled. I think about the day that has passed and begin writing. I never know what thoughts are going to surface but I don't worry. When I finish, I preview what I have written and then edit. What I choose to leave and what I erase depends not only on what I have done, said, and thought but with whom I have done, said, and thought. I am not Mordecai Richler who has been known to betray even his closest friend for a good story. Does this make me bad writer or, at the very least, a mediocre writer? I hope not although at times I fear this is so.

When I began to take my writing seriously over a dozen years ago I said that my mission is to write what others fear to write. I admired Erica Jong's, Anais Nin's, and Henry Miller's earthiness and body talk although I have never liked Miller's writing. It surprised me when Lawrence Durrell, whose Alexandrian Quartet I loved, said that Miller is a far better writer, much more courageous, than he is. No bodily function has been ignored by Miller including defecating. Do I really want to read about what one produces when one is on the toilet? No. But then again, Sharon Olds wrote a poem about watching her menstral blood making beautiful patterns in toilet water and I experienced an epiphany. Up until this time, I had considered a woman's blood an embarassment. Robertson Davies had one character's main research revolve around feces. I thought this hilarious. Is it the manner of telling that makes subjects acceptable or not? Does a writer have that much control over her or his material? How is one to be true to her or his self interests? Writing is an interesting business. (What a banal statement.)

What did I do yesterday? I met Marlene at Granville Island. She was sitting at a small table with a thick file folder, re-reading her new manuscript. She always appears so calm, so centred but she once told me that Librans are good at hiding their fire. I would say, after our conversation, that this woman has many fires burning within. I said, while in France, that she is one of the sexiest women I know. She did not disillusion me. This reminds me of "Nine Parts of Desire" and "Promiscuities", both books suggest that a woman's sexual creative energy is so much greater than a man's that men are fearful of us. In Iran, women are forced to hide all but their eyes so they will not lead men astray. This is a rich topic, one I have only begun to explore in my article "Dangerous Liaisons."

After leaving Marlene, at her window table, overlooking the water and sailboats, and alas without giving her a braid, I drove to Kits Beach to meet my drupaceous plums - the three women who make up my writing group. Shirley was with me in France but I have not seen Vaughan or Wenda for four months. We sat in a circle on a small blanket Shirley thought to bring and ate muffins, banana bread, and fresh blueberries, while sipping our Starbuck's coffee and each spoke of what she'd been doing and thinking since we last met. We are more than comfortable with each other so there is no restraint. (Once when I was feeling miserable and hated myself, my eldest son, told me to think of my friends. Would such amazing women want to be with me, if I was as miserable a human being as I thought of myself at the moment? Where did this young man gain his wisdom?) Although I feel a little corny writing this, I do feel blessed. We plums are good together. We are all good writers and I think we are even better writers because we edit each other's work. We decided to continue meeting every other Saturday and to bring unfinished and finished writing to Wenda's writing table. We want to do more than generate new work.

I picked up Brendan after this meeting and brought him home thinking that for the first time in several years the whole family would be together. Unfortunately Mike had to work all day and night. Still we had an easy good time talking and eating well. And Bren fixed a few problems that I was having with my computer.

Today, Rob and I intend to cross the water and go to Granville Island. I'd forgotten how beautiful it is and also, the quality of produce for sale. It may be expensive but one can pick and choose and what is more important than what one puts in one's mouth? (No wonder I hate mouth guards.)