Sunday, October 31, 2004

Part V

Barbara, at first, was lost in the big bad city and her gay spirit (used here in the old way before homosexuals stole the happy word) was sometimes sore afraid, as she did not know what to do with her new freedom. far from Pretencia and her iron rule.

She loved her anonymity, the energy of the city, the colourful markets, the multiple theatres, the colossal libraries, the intimate cafes, where often she would meet a classmate or two who found her rather quaint and old-fashioned - for Barbara had enrolled in a college to improve her mind. One classmate, male, told her years later that the men in class would talk about her as if she were a princess and hence untouchable and Barbara never told him how close he was to the truth.

After several months, one male dared to ask her to dinner. Alas the man was poor, owned no finery, and could impress Barbara in no pretentious way - much to her delight - and so took her to a humble place for a humble meal. Prince Hairy, true to his name as so many are in this fairy tale, left an impression. He was so much nicer than Fred Astairia who Barbara had been dating for several years. After she left him in her childhood town, she realized that it was only his feet that moved her to tears. The rest of his body, though not static, did not excite her. (The princess would be surprised to hear that Fred Astairia resembled King Monogamy not only in appearance - or as he had looked in his younger days - but also in temperament.)

Prince Hairy, who had no idea he was a prince and called himself simply "Hairy" was kind and gentle and the best listener Barbara had ever met. Before long, she found herself telling him about her childhood dreams and fantasies, and when she told him that her parents weren't really her parents, that she was the daughter of a raven-haired queen and an Irish poet, much to her relief, Hairy didn't laugh. He praised her imagination and Barbara knowing that her story sounded a little far-fetched accepted this interpretation and liked him all the more. Hairy had other virtues but the princess being shy and silenced by her god-fearing pretend parents too long, would not elaborate on Hairy's charms but they must have been considerable because before the year was out, Barbara agreed to marry him.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I'm prograstinating so thought I'd give you another excerpt of my fairy tale. I ended Part 111 with: "Only in her dreams did she come alive."

Part 1V

This is not quite true. Barbara's spirit did not show itself often and was definitely tucked below the surface when she was in the house of Pretencia and Ridgard, but outside, in the great outdoors she chose males to be her companions for she loved to run, to climb trees, to hit balls with bats. All went well until the princess began to develop small globes on her chest. Pretencia seeing her second daughter (who she now forgot wasn't hers) turning into a young woman, told her that bats and balls were highly suggestive equipment and it was high time that Barbara lend a helping hand in the kitchen and parlour. "What would people think of her, Pretencia, raising such a boyish girl?"

And Barbara, caught in a rare defiant mood, whispered that she didn't give a damn what people thought. Pretencia heard and sent her to her room without dinner.

The princess grew grimmer and grimmer without physical release until her pretend mother, sick of her moping, suggested that she take dance classes. (Pretencia had another reason. A neighbour had bragged to her that her child was well on her way to becoming a prima ballerina and Pretencia wanted to take the smug smile off her face and better her.) Barbara, aware of Pretencia's reasons though beside herself with excitement, pretended reluctance as she was afraid that Pretencia would withdraw her offer if she appeared too eager. Finally when Pretencia yelled "You'll do what I say young lady," Barbara agreed.

And so she began to dance twice a week in an enchanted hall with bars around two walls and a huge mirror at one end. Barbara took to dance as if she'd been born to twirl round rooms on her toes, not knowing that Vivacia had also studied dance and that her great grandmother was a classical Persian dancer of great renown who had performed in royal halls.

When Barbara's dancing teacher told Pretencia that her daughter was a natural dancer, she grinned and ran to tell her neighbour. Much to Pretencia's glee, Barbara danced her way through her teens, winning many prizes, until her high school days were over and it was time to bid her pretend parents farewell and move to the big city to find her future.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I just returned from San Francisco last night and am feeling a little overwhelmed. The house and garden are still calling for attention - too much. Rob said our lack of care has caught up to us. And I now have to place all the orders for the store for spring in the next two weeks and I need time to think.

And there are still black bears visiting my sanctuary. Rob caught one huge fellow up our apple tree the other night.

The first night in San Francisco, I felt good in my hotel room, playing with the remote on the television and reading but when I turned the light out, I became dark and gloomy, tossed and turned, turned the light back on several times, wrote in my journal but nothing helped.

I have been trying so hard since the workshop to give myself time to sort out my thoughts and find a clear direction but instead of feeling lighter, I feel more confused. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am studying Helen Luke and her chapter on Suffering won't leave me alone. I have read it at least four times, written notes, and still it nags. And this horrible witchy voice inside me keeps telling me to spill the beans, tell all in this public journal, and I recoil. I'm not ready.

Luke insists that we have to uncover our fear of humiliation because from this fear comes a "dead weight of moods and depression." Guilt is useless. Acceptance of our human condition is the key, otherwise we are saying "I ought to be like God, free of all weaknesses."

The last day in San Francisco I went to a book store and bought "Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose" and trust me to turn to a section called: "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying(1975)." These notes tie in with Luke's thoughts on suffering. Rich believes that silence is lying and truth is complex and if we don't at least try to voice our truths we hurt others and ourselves:

"In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even with our own lives.
"The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire....
"An honorable human relationship - that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love" - is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths that they can tell each other.
"It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
"It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.
"It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us."

Rich speaks of the kind of fear that I felt the other night, the fear that keeps me silent, the fear that I expect too much from relationships, the fear that I am not good enough for relationships, the fear of some great dark hole - the void.

She mentions that Virginia Woolf called the void "the dark core" and Rich says that out of darkness and emptiness comes rebirth and, to me, this means change.

"The void is the creatrix, the matrix. It is not mere hollowness and anarchy. But in women it has been identified with lovelessness, barrenness, sterility.... We are not supposed to go down into the darkness of the core.
"Yet, if we can risk it, the something born of that nothing is the beginning of our truth."

I use a lot of quotes here because I have not quite digested all that I must before I can spill my beans and still stand the sight of myself in the mirror. I see also that I have not achieved what Luke calls true "humility."

Truth is complex.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I forgot to mention yesterday that I'm off to San Francisco early Sunday morning. I return Wednesday evening so unless there's an internet cafe near my hotel, I will not be publishing my blog till later in the week.
Vaughan and I were the sole soul writers today at "The Grind" - strange I never thought about the name of the cafe where we meet. We had some delicious writerly conversation and wrote for one hour straight. I continued with my fairytale.

As a reminder, I ended with the young couple and their two daughters moving to a new land where the fair-haired princess was dreaming of castles, brightly coloured silks and satins, and flying carpets.

Part 111

And so the young princess grew up far from her magical home without her beautiful raven-haired mother who, true to her name, had been vivacious, and loved poetry and soft lilting voices.

There is no denying that her pretend parents were good people but her blond-haired mother, Pretencia was much more rigid, less indulgent to her children than Vivacia would have been, for Pretencia - a true Irish woman - believed in the old maxim that children should be seen and not heard.

Although Barbara on occasion, like her real mother, would be caught by some inexplicable joy and remove her clothes and dance in the garden, Pretencia was so shocked that she slapped her young daughter's wrists - she thought of her now as her own - and told the young princess in no uncertain terms that such behavior was wanton and unacceptable for the child of god-fearing parents, especially now that her husband, Rigidard (much to her pride - and she was prideful) had landed a job with a respected international firm. She had delighted writing home about this success and wrote further about her husband's plan to buy an rectangular box called a bungalow and a chariot called a Chevrolet.)

Before long, Barbara learned to curb her joyous outbursts and by the time she started school, all desire to remove her clothes and dance was gone. She was so docile and well-mannered in fact that her teachers, although they liked her pliability, found her a little too quiet.

Throughout her single digit years, the princess practised obedience because she thought if she was really really good, her real parents would send for her. Only in her dreams did she come alive.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I tumbled out to my little house in the garden this morning, straining to see and hear if a bear had entered my space. I think about Marion Engel's "Bear" who she fictively allowed into her northern home, to join her in front of the fire, and who left claw marks down her back.

What is this passion I have for reading and writing? Where are they leading me? I have spent so many years dreaming, writing, editing and for what reason? I have been told many times by other writers I admire and trust that I am good at this sport, that I must continue to play. So I do. I do (said in the same tone that I used on my wedding day.)

Hells' bells. Am I going to run out of paper and ink, (and more to the point, out of time) before anything comes of this mad scribbling? "Quantity not quality. Write copiously," I tell myself. "Write, write, write, and the quality will magically appear."
"Sure," I whisper, not really believing that anything could be easy for me in this life. "How dare you complain?" another inner voice says. "You are privileged. You follow dreams. You dance on tables. You travel. You are loved."


(So why are inner struggles so difficult to rationalize? Because they are not rational?)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I feel as if I have moved to the wild west. A bear stopped by my little house in the garden yesterday, breaking the fence between our neighbour's yard and ours. The retired woman next door bakes chocolate cake for the neighbourhood racoons who have taken up residence in the back part of our basement - unusable as it has an earth floor but is linked to the usable part by a wooden door. Some restless animals, probably small, probably squirrels, have moved into our attic space.
Add to the animal activity, a moss-covered roof that leaks in two spots, a back garden that looks like a garbage dump, a front and back garden that have been taken over by laurels and blackberry vines, and you'll understand why I'm overwhelmed to be home. (And I haven't even mentioned all the things that need tending indoors.)

My cold has nearly disappeared and now that I only sniff and cough occasionally I see its wisdom. I have done only what is necessary since the BodySoul intensive - a few days of working in the store, a few chores - indoors and out - to do with daily living, and a lot of thinking about how I want to direct my limited energy. No big revelations so far but I do like this easier pace.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Happy 18th Birthday Gillian Kathleen Young

My daughter is so French,
She adores chocolate in the morning,
Dancing in the evening.
She sways her hips to music
every chance she gets.

She loves language
Hates the stupidity of sensationalist news
describing wars and bloodshed,
Loves Paris cafes and fashion
French kisses (or so I imagine.)


I see her as a little girl, her back to me, trudging up a grassy hill,
in France, searching for wild flowers with Susan and praising this friend, four
times her age, when she discovers one first.
"Oh you are so clever, Susan."

I picture her at the Eiffel Tower, angry at me because I
forbid her to climb to the top with her brothers.

I see her in Verona, sitting across from me at a small cafe,
sharing a tomato salad and spaghetti Bolognese, discussing Romeo and Juliet;
and again in Milan, following me around the Rudolph Nureyev
exhibit, exclaiming when I touch the giant's tights and
points to the sign forbidding such an action.

I see her again on a boat from Greece, where she managed
the language much better than me, sleeping late
in a room with many bunks, barely awake when we
disembark in Italy because she stayed up
most of the night talking with some English bloke.

I see her in Nice, sprawled out on a park bench,
barely able to raise her head, unable to lull beside
the Mediterranean because she went out the
night before and drank too much with several
Americans we met on the train.

I remember her beside me in Northern Ireland,
lugging bags from the grocery store,
swaying to traditional music in Irish Pubs,
and best of all, snuggled beside me in my bed in
our cold, damp flat, reading poetry.

I see her this summer, sitting across from me
in a sleazy restaurant across from the train station,
in Toulouse telling me to catch an early train back to our village,
and not wait for her to catch hers to Paris,
to London, to the airport, to Toronto,
to start her own life. (Was she afraid of my tears?)
That's the last time I saw her.

And she writes to me as if I'm the best mother in the
world and I want to cry and cry again when I read her public journal
when she despairs about eating and drinking, her
passion for beautiful things, her failures in love, and
bemoans the fact that she is human. I am so glad she
is and even happier that she can write about all.
I am astonished at her clarity of thought,
her earnestness, her honesty, her curiosity, and
her playfulness.

(To paraphrase a country and western song)

She's Kathleen's granddaughter
The spitting image of her father
And when the day is done
Her momma's still her biggest fan...

Should her tender heart be broken
She will cry those teardrops knowing
She will be just fine
'Cause nothing changes who she is...

She is Kathleen's granddaughter...
And her momma's still her biggest fan...

She's a saint and she's a sinner
She's a loser, she's a winner
She is steady and unstable
She is young but she is able...

Confessions of a Young Woman
I'm still sick. I can't believe how long this cold is holding on, keeping me from attending meetings, visiting with friends, and working. This morning a friend reminded me of a dream I had last week - a single image of a banner that read "This here carries tears from Marion's workshop" - and told me that colds are said to be unshed tears.

I am feeling weepy and frustrated. I'd say that I am being forced to slow down, to absorb what has happened in my travels, and to come to the realization that I can't do everything that I did before and expect to take my writing seriously.

Is it coincidence that I have begun studying Helen Luke and she speaks of the feminine principle and equates it to the "receptive", the yin of the "I Ching"? Luke describes a woman who "had no time outwardly and no energy inwardly to be still and listen" to the direction she needed to take with her career and so became ill.

As I sit here at my computer, barely able to think a coherent thought, I see the wisdom in slowing down and taking the time to decide what is important to me and what is not. I need to prioritize. I can't do everything.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Oh dear, my body is failing me. I went to Marlene's last night for the third session on Helen Luke's book and my nose started pouring and my head felt as if it were in a vise (I first wrote "vice") so I left half way through the evening. This is not like me.
I went to bed as soon as I arrived home and slept to 8 a.m. This is not like me. I went back to bed after tea this morning and missed an important meeting at work. Again, this is not like me.

I have the quick thought that being unlike myself may not be a bad thing.

Today is Rob's birthday. He's fifty-eight years old and I was surprised to hear him say that it's ominous being so close to the big 6 0. He rarely speaks of aging. I met him over thirty-five years ago at Ryerson. Gill sent him a Ryerson sweatshirt for this birthday. Is it strange that she is where we were when we met?

I was one of two females in a class of 29 and the other female only had eyes for our geography prof so I suppose I could have had my pick of the lot though several were married and a few others had girlfriends. So what attracted me to a herring-choker, a Maritimer, a man two and a half years older? I often tease and say it was the way he rolled his shirt sleeves to expose the hair on his arms. But, I think - it's a long time ago - that I liked his soft voice, the way he listened, his lack of pretension, his gentleness, and his down-to-earth approach to life. We were friends for a fair length of time before we became lovers.

It seems, most of the time, that Rob hasn't changed much over the years although he doesn't roll his shirt sleeves as often. He is still soft-spoken, still listens. He is not pretentious. He is still gentle, never pulls the male or husband power-trip on me. He demands little. We live easily side by side most of the time. He is a sound man (pun intended.) He is also a damn good writer. (He read me several sections of his novel, set in France, in France, and I wanted to hear more.)

There is something very sweet about living with an other for a long period of time. There is no need to impress or pretend. There is comfort in his or her familiar smell, taste, and touch. There is also danger of assuming too much, thinking for the other, talking too little.

I would hate us to become - like the old couple across from me in the restaurant in Paris - bored with nothing to say to the other. But conversation is my wish for us. I will ask Rob what he would like to see happen this new year - for us as a couple and for him alone. Happy Birthday Rob. I hope you are enjoying this lazy hazy day - both of us on our computers. Me sniffling, head stuffed, still in my pjs, (not exactly a beauty queen) trying to find some clever way to tell you, without stating it outright, that I love you and hope this year is fucking fantastic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I celebrated thanksgiving yesterday evening with three of my sisters, a niece and a nephew, and their families. My niece's new house was noisy, full of family chatter and lots of good food. Bren, Mike, and I left early to pick up Rob at airport. He arrived full of talk of Paris and the croissant he had for breakfast, the village, and how delicious it was to be there alone. We both thrive on alone time. Do we thrive on together time? I only know how excited I was to see him, how lovely it was to have his warm body next to mine. I slept late. And now I must organize myself for work and there, for a buying trip on the 23rd of this month in San Francisco.

I am having a hard time re-entering North American life. I find myself still at Grimstone Manor or on the moors in my mind, praying that I will not lose what I found there. On Sunday, I slept and slept, returning to bed several times, refusing a dinner invitation at Double Dave's, simply wanting to be with my self. I started reading Helen Luke's "The Way of Woman" in which she discusses Emily Bronte and Dickinson. Both were introverts and seldom left home and, because of their solitude and lack of desire for fame and fortune, were able to create timeless verse. I do not aspire to such greatness but after
Saturday when I attended my Plum meeting (how good to be with my writing allies again and as Wenda said, as soon as she saw me, it seemed as if no time had passed), helped Leslie's daughter ice a cake, and attended Walter's birthday party, I was exhausted and see that I must limit my outside activity. I want to have time to collect my thoughts, and read and write.

I am so happy to have my little house in the garden once again where I can visit and work/play uninterrupted for hours. I don't want to fall into my old habit of running breathless from one place to another, no matter how enticing an event may seem, no matter how much I love the person who wants to get together. I want to withdraw from the world more and have time to absorb, especially what I did this summer. I want to continue with Shitty and my fairytale. I want to have time to write my daughter who I miss like crazy. I want to have time with Rob and my sons. I suppose this is all about me. But time is passing. I think of Mary Oliver's line:"When it's all over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular... I don't want to end up having simply visited this world..."

Friday, October 08, 2004

I slept but sporadically. I want to go in a thousand directions and my mind is churning. One step at a time, I tell myself. Make a list. Answer correspondence. Sort out three months accumulation of bills and letters. Update my dream file. Find the few pages I wrote on "Shitty" for tomorrow's Plum meeting. Continue my account of the past week.

I would like to spill my guts on the page, as is my way, but find myself constrained as Marion several times said that what happens during the workshop happens in the safety of the temenos (sacred place) and is not to be discussed. But the brochure for public consumption notes: "In these intensives, the leaders create a supportive space where each participant can access and use her own individual dream imagery to discover her authentic self and speak with a free, open voice. Art and mask-making offer space for the unlived energy (the shadow) to emerge through the body, psyche, and voice." In the release form, they also note that the intensive is educational, not therapeutic but I feel it is both.

There were twenty-seven participants and the majority were psychoanalysts and therapists. One woman said that what you gain in the week would take over a year of psychoanalysis. This is new ground for me but thanks to Marlene's "Circle", I was better versed than I thought in Woodman's and Jung's ideas. I pushed myself as far as I could and though often I fell into my usual despair of not being intelligent enough, tough enough, too self-conscious, too constrained in body and voice, I feel in my gut that I did just fine and left with a clearer idea of what I have to do to be true to my self. Is that too vague?

A little voice inside me says "tough." I still have too much to absorb to speak plainly. And I have yet to go through my copious notes, look up poetry references, and collate dream information from the workshop. I wish there were more hours in the day. I've been up since 4 a.m. It's 10:45 and I'm still in my flannel night-gown and have done nothing practical. (How deliciously decadent. I'm going to savour the next few days while I still can blame my inaction on jet-lag.)

I'm home and oh so tired. I was able to turn my computer on Tuesday evening when I arrived and pick up the fifty emails that were sent during my time in England but then my computer died and I could not find my North American plug so I couldn't respond, couldn't blog, couldn't do anything electronically that evening or yesterday. It was a relief: I wrote my jet-lagged thoughts in my journal. And last night I went to Marlene's for her Jungian Women's Writers Circle to study Helen Luke. I could hardly keep my eyes open and what dribble I wrote. Judy sitting next to me said "You're so funny, Yvonne." Funny that I don't think of myself this way but I've been told this once or twice this summer. Guess it's time to rethink myself. No. This is what I did during the two writing sessions and most intensely during this past week where all I had to think about was my self.

How did my friend Kate put it? "Welcome back from a summer of becoming you." The process started in France and continued in England. I find the lost cause is not so lost. I filled half a thick journal with notes and thoughts, turned inward, chose to be silent most often when "class" was out and yet still had time to become close to my Rumis (room-mates) as we called ourselves. Now that was strange. I have never slept with three strangers in the same room. After one night, several complained of my snoring - all I drank the entire week was water, tea, and coffee Rob will be surprised to hear - but after that and the introduction of chocolate as a before-bed snack to my diet, I apparently snored less and we laughed and talked together, and I found myself - when all were tucked in their beds - reading them my stories.

In my wildest dreams, I have never imagined myself doing what I did that week. I have never worked and pushed myself so hard. I have never eaten so well or so regularly. I have never swum naked in a pool with other naked women. I have never been so self-indulgent for such an extended period of time. My moods swung down and up. I was not alone. After the final dance was danced the last morning, I sat and cried. (And to top it all off when I left, I left my new coat and silk dressing gown behind. This is not like me.)

I called Rob mid-week and he jokingly asked if we were wearing masks and jumping into water. He was not far off.

We met morning, afternoon, and evening. Every morning Marion lectured on some aspect of the conscious feminine followed by dream analysis. In the afternoons, we did voice and body work and then painted or wrote. Every evening was a surprise. Oh I would have liked to have run away and hid at times but I kept telling myself to belief in the process. How could I doubt it when three such extraordinary women, Marion Woodman, Mary Hamilton, and Ann Skinner created it and have been leading BodySoul intensives for thirty years?

Oh dear, I'm fading. I'll continue tomorrow.