Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I have hardly slept. Yesterday morning I drove Gill up to school for her last exam and then went down to the water to write in my journal. It was before nine in the morning but the sun was already strong and I had to remove my cardigan. Two young lovers, the male's face buried in the neck of the female, were sitting on a log, and as I walked passed them, he raised his head and kissed her on the lips. I felt as if I was invading their space and went further down the beach. Again I am reminded of France. One doesn't usually see public displays of affection on this soil.

I was thinking about the election, won by the Liberal party and although I have no affection for Paul Martin, I am relieved, greatly relieved, that the neo-Conservatives, under Stephen Harper were not elected.

When I returned home, I had a call from Travel Cuts and had to drive to Granville Island to sign the last car document for our car lease in France. Gill was at home by the time I arrived back. She looked calmer than I've seen her for days, weeks. She has finished her last provincial. Her high school days are over. My high school days are over.

Although it embarrasses me to mention this, I will. Driving home from Granville Island, I was playing the radio - country and western - singing along when Martina McBride's song "Through my Daughter's Eyes" started playing. The first verse (I found the lyrics on the internet) goes:

"In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes."

I found myself weeping. My girl/woman is leaving in less than a week for Northern Ireland. She will meet up with Rob and me in Paris and spend the summer in Castelnau before moving to Toronto but still, I feel her leaving and I can only just bear the thought.

The rest of the day passed in a blur. I bought champagne and quickly cleaned the house for the twenty or more people who were dropping in for a drink before the event at the fancy hotel. I drove Gill to have her makeup done and this took over an hour - not because it's an effort to make her beautiful but because she knows what she wants and gave explicit instructions. She looked radiant, breathtakingly gorgeous. Rob could hardly bear to look at her, she looked so grown up. We were supposed to visit the hairdresser next but Gill decided she would wear it simple and long. Besides we only had a half hour before people were to arrive.

All Gill's friends, when they arrived in evening clothes - male and female - looked like fairy tale princesses and princes. Helen's son, Alexi, who was Gill's date, looked liked a Greek god, a little like Eros, with his dark curly hair and broad smile. This was the best part of the evening for me. The hotel, food, water, were fine - a little boring, as Gill said - as we were in a far corner and the last to eat - nothing extraordinary except for the Grads - and Rob might add, the first dance where fathers held their precious daughters in their arms.

In regards to "High and Dry on Grad Night", one woman responded with anger to my article. She mocked me regarding my desire for wine with my meal and wondered how I get through breakfast and lunch without alcohol. "I'm sure most of the parents in her daughter's grad class would welcome such a fine individual educating their children about wines rather than self-restraint or social responsibility."

I do understand that people fear alcohol and drugs and some for very good reason but when prohibition is enforced how can one demonstrate self-restraint or social responsibility?

I keep thinking of "Babette's Feast", an extraordinary sensual experience where eyes rolled and hearts lifted with the taste of food and wine. I may have to write another article.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I know I have been sloppy about writing my blog lately. Sometimes I think it a waste of time and I should stop cold turkey but then something happens - someone writes me or asks me in person how I had the nerve to tell some tale - and I grumble and know I want to continue. It fits too well with a grandiose idea I had about my writing long ago, that I want to write about things that people don't usually talk about, and although often I censor myself and tell little, at other times I find the courage to display my wounds or trophies. Not long ago my friend Kate said that I write a completely different blog than anyone she knows and I felt such a rush of pleasure. Isn't that what everyone wants to know - that she or he is unique? She also said that I was one of the writers who inspired her to write an article that won the Editor's Choice Award in trAce and Writers for the Future's New Media Article Writing Competition in the UK: "Show Me Your Context Baby: My Love Affair with Blogs"

The date to leave for France is fast approaching and I'm finding it more and more difficult to write anything. I was pleased to see my article and name on Page 7 of the North Shore News. It's a small local paper but it felt good to speak my mind. Vaughan told me, at our Plum meeting on Saturday, that I should continue to fling articles their way as a way to be heard. I think she's right but the time element is a problem.

I have been seeing how rich folk live the past few days. On Wednesday evening, Rob and I drove with Marlene and Steve to my sister's chalet at Whistler. Her duplex is in a ritzy new area where I doubt any home sells for less than a million. Bev's "cottage" has four levels and everything from the gas stove to stereo system to the kitchen bar stools is top of the line - better than we have at home - and is so spacious that there is plenty of room on the main living floor with its open kitchen, dining room, and seating area to relax and be together, or room on the bottom or top sleeping floors for privacy.

Whistler is a strange place with its wealth of nature and wealthy residents. We focused on the nature - wild and beautiful, mountains with patches of snow in the background, Emily Carr trees everywhere, and a murky bubbling brook where Marlene and I went the last day to write in our journals. I like it best, find it quiet and comforting, when I do not go near the fancy village with its numerous retail outlets that charge bootleg prices.

Time passed slowly and sweetly. Oh there were a few moments of heightened tension - Marlene was upset, the moment we arrived, when she realized that she had left her purse with both Steve and her wallets in it, in a small restaurant in Squamish. Who wouldn't be agitated? (We called immediately. Some honest person had turned it in and Marlene and I drove back the next morning to collect it.) And then there was the fancy restaurant in the village whose wine cellar (I noted one bottle at $1400) gave the restaurant (named the best in Whistler) - or perhaps it was just our waiter - pretensions. Because (I project) we didn't order a bottle, only a carafe of wine (I hold to my idea that a meal cannot be enjoyed without some heady grape juice) our waiter was miserly with his service. After sitting for over an hour with only one small appetizer, while others around us feasted, our temperatures rose, then we rose, and went to the hostess to complain. (I knew Rob was justifiably hot and would speak his mind and although I admire this, I cannot bear conflict, so went outside.) We found a more modest place to eat.

The four of us, to my mind, blended well. I think we all breathed a little easier after several days away from the city and responsibility. I know, I did (even though I did a little work on store orders.)

Saturday morning, I went to my Plum meeting - another example of personalities blending and enriching one another. We are so good together. The last meeting, I asked that each person memorize a poem and we all discovered that my whimsical request not only stimulated the mind but brought us closer to the poet and her or his meaning. Vaughan brought a story and we discussed several areas, that she had marked in advance, that she felt needed altering but wasn't sure how. Sometimes, after editing for the millionth time, one is too close to one's material to think clearly. And we wrote together - whatever came to mind - and after I read over what I wrote this morning, I see that I have two leads for new stories. Am I blessed? Yes.

Last night, Rob and I went to a party, a few blocks from our house, hosted by a stunt woman. Her home was like a movie set, a child's dream, a fairytale castle complete with turret. The young woman wanted her house to be fun and so between the three main floors were two huge black tunnels that one slid into - head first from main floor to basement and feet first from bedroom to main floor - if one couldn't be bothered using the stairs. Although they looked a little scary, I tried both. The whole house was over-the-top wonderful and expansive - her kitchen was the size of our whole main floor and then, to add a bit of excitement to the evening, she had hired two women circus performers (one had worked with Cirque du Soleil) and they performed amazing feats on the back deck from a high portable tower. In the basement, she had a movie theatre room complete with movie theatre chairs. I am never keen on parties but I'm glad I attended this one. I even found several strangers who were open and interesting and had great conversations.

I often think that Rob and I are lucky to have what we have and do what we do. I still do but, after the last few days, I see that there are other worlds that are much more extravagant than ours. Would I change my life for Bev's or the stunt woman's? No. But I do enjoying visiting theirs on occasion.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Today was so hot I felt as I did last summer in France. Even early morning, down by the water, I felt the same breathless heat, and when I looked up from my book, a young man stepped out of the ocean in a Speedo. I rubbed my eyes. Only in France have I seen men wearing these tight little numbers that accentuate their curves and bulges.

I didn't stay long at the beach as I was determined to wade through a ton of paperwork for home and store at home. My departure for three months is fast approaching.

I do feel like a washout - whatever that means. I spend the weekend in Seattle at yet another clothing market. Rob accompanied Walter and me and he wandered while Walter and I worked. In the evening, we met back at the hotel and went out for dinner - although none of us were lively and I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I am bone weary. Yesterday I worked all day in the store and in the evening went to a farewell dinner for my parents at my baby sister's.

Have you ever - whoever you are - done something in jest and have it turn out badly? I have. More than once. But yesterday was the worst. At Bev's, I playfully took a cannister of whipped cream and tried to cover Rob's face so I could lap up the cream (so childish, really) but what happened was that air, not cream, flew out of that damn cannister and hit Rob in the eye. I didn't know that such an action could be dangerous. My little joke landed Rob in the hospital for two hours. The air burnt his cornea but because he could see, the doctors let him go, saying that it would most likely heal itself. Need I say what names I called myself?

On an up note, my rant of an article called "High and Dry on Grad Night" is going to be published tomorrow in a local paper. The senior editor liked my story but said that they had no budget to pay for it. Did I want to voice my opinion or not? I chose to let them have it. I want to be read.

Friday, June 18, 2004

This week has been crazy busy to say the least. I keep meaning to write here and there, and work on stories but I think I must, for a change, be sensible and allow myself time off from writing and organize myself for France. I realized yesterday that I haven't even arranged the car rental - an absolute necessity in our small village where there's no public transport. I must also take the time to write orders for the store or there will be no new merchandise for fall. It takes a lot of time and thought, I whine, to decide what bottoms and tops work together, and then what colours to buy. What do women want, I ask myself. And if I guess wrong, the store will be in trouble and so I involve the staff. They are the ones who work with the customers and know what sells. I narrow down the options at market and then bring home line sheets, colour swatches, and pictures and ask each staff member for her opinion. Although this takes more time, I do not have to bear full responsibility if a line doesn't work.

Although busy, there have been moments of pleasure. On Wednesday morning, for instance, I helped Bett move into her new apartment downtown - although there really wasn't a lot to do. Her new town home is lovely - an old building that has been well loved in the shape of a horseshoe (for luck) and a well looked after front garden. I left Bett waiting for furniture to arrive to have lunch with Shirley, who was full to brimming over with stories from her trip to England. After lunch, at a small Mediterranean restaurant on 10th Avenue, we walked to the park where Shirley read me several poems about her adventure and showed me pictures. I have never seen this women so radiant. Travel suits her.

After, I started to drive towards the North Shore but the road was so congested, I pulled into the parking lot at Kits Beach and sat in the sand and read. It seemed useless to drive home and then drive into the city less than a hour later to catch Steve Rosen's talk at the main library.

I didn't expect to understand Steve's subject - a discussion on his new book "Dimensions of Apeiron: A Topological Phenomenology of Space, Time, and Individuation" but I like the man very much and he asked the Dialogue group to attend - or those who were able - to support him as he was going to attempt a Dialogical discussion. Shirley met me there. I don't think I dare try to recap his talk but I did grasp enough so I didn't feel like a complete idiot. I even felt excited that apeiron - "a Greek word for what is 'limitless,' 'boundless,' or 'indeterminate'" and what I think simply as "chaos" - might have positive ramifications for the individual. I see chaos as an interesting state and although it may confuse and confound me, it can excite and stimulate the imagination. Steve, in a much more eloquent and intelligent manner says of his book: "What I intend to demonstrate in the chapters to follow is that the upsurgence of apeiron--far from indelibly spelling the demise of human individuality, actually offers us the opportunity to bring it to fruition."

Yesterday, I went to the dentist and had my mouth piece (I still can't use the word "denture") adjusted yet another time and it does feel more comfortable, did a Costco run with Gill (the most fun was talking to her about dreams), and preparing a feast for my parents. It was an easy evening. Helen and her mum came over and everyone ate and drank well, while Bev and Bill's children entertained us.

Today, I drove Gill up for her dreaded math provincial and then went down to the water for a bit. Helen is picking me up afternoon and giving me the gift of a pedicure - this to me is a bit of heaven, especially given the fact that I have a foot fetish - and then Walter is picking up Rob and I and driving us to Seattle for market. Rob will wander when Walter and I work.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Yesterday, the Young family had two reasons to celebrate. Gill, in cap and gown, graduated from high school in a three and half hour ceremony. She received a gold cord (although no one was sure what it meant), a honours certificate, and the book prize for English Literature (meaning she received the highest mark in the grade twelve classes.) People kept coming over and congratulating Rob and I but I thought this stupid. Gill did the work, no prompting from us.

I am so glad that she is finished, out of the public school system. It is a hard grind, a necessary one I know, but still difficult for these young people who have lived in a classroom for so many years, with too many rules, under the supervision of a staff who continued to treat them like children even when they were beyond puberty. Throughout the ceremony, they referred to the grads as "boys and girls."

Gill is feeling no relief as she has two more days in the classroom, and then three provincials, and one final exam to write.

Yesterday was also the 34th anniversary of Rob and my wedding day. This is rather extraordinary, even to us, that we have lasted so long as a couple. My longest friend, Penelope, once said that we were not allowed to part: we were an institution and one of the first that gave her faith in marriage.

Strange thing is that both Rob and I don't believe in marriage - "legal union of a man and a woman for life" - although this may well come to pass. I think the nice thing about our relationship is, for the most part, we leave each other to be. I realized a number of years ago that we weren't going to fill the other's voids, that we weren't responsible for the other's happiness. We are on our own together. At times, this is comforting even exciting. At other times, it is wearing even depressing. But always - at least for me - it is educational living with an opposite, a sound man, who can make me as angry as hell and as tender as sap.

After Gill's ceremony, we (all five of us) went to Memphis Blues on Commercial and ate a feast of meats and then went for a walk past the first house Rob and I lived in together in Vancouver. It hasn't changed or, if it has, it is more run down, uglier than we remember. We weren't happy there, parted and went our separate ways for a year and a half. In those days, Commercial wasn't the young, vibrant area, it is today. I'm sure place had, at least, a little to do with our unhappiness.

I am not feeling especially eloquent today. I am still recovering from my Los Angeles trip. Some people may get high on shopping for clothes (my mother) and LA market attracts buyers from as far away as Europe. It's one of the largest markets in America but I grew bored after viewing a dozen or so lines. It's a hell of a responsibility, second-guessing customers and knowing what will sell.

Today, I will take my computer, pictures, line sheets, and notes to the store and get the staff to help me edit and order for late fall and holiday.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Sometimes I wish I were a man. I think - a projection - that life would be simpler. Or sometimes I want to be younger and more definite - not because of the waning of the body - but because younger women seem to be so much more sure of their place in the world. Kate tells me that when she was growing up, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro had the same status as the Fathers of Confederation.

So yesterday as I read a few stories from "Dropped Threads: What We Aren't Told", I paid particular attention to an essay "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything" by Atwood.

Although I am not a great fan of her fiction (my favourite book is still "The Edible Woman"), I like her voice, her unapologetic certainty in this essay. Towards the end, she says "Feminism has done many good things for women writers, but surely the most important has been the permission to say the unsaid, to encourage women to claim their full humanity, which means acknowledging the shadows as well as the lights."

Is it arrogant of me to think that this is what I am trying to do in this blog, in my writing, in my relationships? I am attempting to acknowledge my shadows?

Dare I tell about how fearful I am? Sometimes I have to dare myself to push the publish button on this blog.

At the very end of her essay, Atwood says that women are "still" conditioned to please and that it is easy to make them feel guilty about almost anything. (Woodman said somewhere that a woman can even feel bad about breathing.)

What scares me and pisses me off is the fear I feel inside my gut, that I am always and forever inappropriate no matter what I do. I am sick of this fear and yet I don't know how to fight it.

Fighting oneself reminds me of a quote by Mary Meigs in my essay "Mothers Incorporated" in which I compare Meigs and Maxine Hong Kingston's fear of writing about subjects that would anger their mothers. (I've just pulled it out and am surprised by how good it is.)

I quote Adrienne Rich on the second page. "when women can stop being haunted, not only by convention and propriety, but by internalized fears of being and saying themselves, then it is an extraordinary moment for the women writer - and reader."

While her mother was alive, Meigs had been injured by her harsh judgements and by those of others who held similiar rigid views on protocol and behaviour; or by those like Mary McCarthy who, in a assigning her the role of Dolly Lamb in 'A Charmed Life', makes presumptions about her character that verge on the truth but are not the truth. 'The artist as generating subject resists becoming anyone else's object,' Susanna Egan writes of Meigs. 'The theft of self and the violation of her central 'I am' by such external definiton become central issues [in her autobiography].'

After her mother's death, Meigs realizes that her inability to overcome her fears and speak openly have cost too much: 'Silence, for me, is bloated with threats and fears; there is no way of fighting it, and the fact of it, both enclosing and assailing, makes me want to rage and accuse. I have spent most of my life in a self-imposed silence, affronting the silence of others.'

Kingston says that she was only able to find the courage to tell that which was forbidden by being "really tricky." When her mother told her not to tell, she would think, "Well I'm not going to tell, I'm going to write." Still she had to write for years insisting to herself that she was not going to publish in order to free herself to write. In the same interview, she says that "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 is unacceptable, or too crazy... It's always important to tell the truth because if you don't, there are all kinds of terrible psychological consequences."

Atwood concludes her essay speaking of women's fears: "The fear that does not speak its name, for some women these days, is a fear of other women. But you aren't supposed to talk about that: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
There are many strong voices: there are many kinds of strong voices. Surely there should be room for all.
Does it make sense to silence women in the name of Women?
We can't afford this silencing, or this fear."

It surprises me - why I don't know - that women are still writing about fear, feeling fear, after such as Atwood, Meigs, Hong Kingston, and explicitly, Tillie Olsen, have given us permission to lay ourselves on the line. What do we, women writers, want? What do I as a person want? I'm not sure but I think acceptance, to be met on my own terms. I love this verse by Rumi.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language,
even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I'm in one of my moods. I apologize. The world is good to me. I sit in my own little house in the garden, well fed - Gillian and Brendan made dinner. I am sipping scotch and reading poetry. Sounds kind of fancy to me. I opened Nye's book "Words under the Words" to the "World in Translation." Am I allowed to quote another on this public journal? I don't know. So I will - nobody has stopped me yet. This poem reminds me of living in Northern Ireland, standing in the post office where one old person greeted another, "What about you?" And the other replied, "I'm still above the soil."

"It was a long climb out of the soil.
She counted off whole continents
as she lifted each foot,
imagined her dark years falling away like husks.
Soon she could feel objects come to life
in her hand, the peel of a banana,
a lightly waxed pepper,
she accepted these into her home,
placed them in bowls where they could be watched.
There was nothing obscure about melons,
nothing involved about yams.
If she where to have anything to do with the world,
these would be her translators,
through these she would learn secrets of dying,
how to do it gracefully as the peach,
softening in silence,
or the mango, finely tuned to its own skin."

Simplicity. That's what I yearn for. Not a world of complexes and projections.

How can we know ourselves
or defend ourselves
or help an other know her or him self
unless we talk openly
and listen without feeling defensive?

How do we know what is projection and what is insight?

How are we to know if no one loves us enough to talk to us and not to another?

I sent a story to a newspaper on Saturday. I went to hear Vaughan and her poetry group read last night. Vaughan surprised me. She spoke so well, so clearly, so loudly as if she didn't have a fear in the world. She told me afterwards that this was not the case. She fooled me. My projection. I'm glad she told me the truth.

Today I worked. Tonight my parents arrive from Toronto. I will visit them tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I seem to be incapable of writing a blog these days, incapable of writing at all. Not good. My head is full of travel arrangements for Gill - to Northern Ireland, then Paris, then Toulouse, back to Vancouver at the end of August, and
then Toronto - and Rob and I - to Paris, Toulouse, Paris, London, Vancouver.

I have already booked my flight to Los Angeles for the 10th of June and am in the process of making plans for Seattle market. If it weren't me, I'd feel that my person is leading an exciting life.

Gill is excited about starting university but unhappy that she has had to disappoint the friend that she was going to live with in Paris. Why isn't life easier? Why can't something, one thing, be pure joy? If I could organize the world for my children, I would.

On Sunday evening, we sat and read poetry together - Erica Jong and Sinead Morrisey. We did this in Northern Ireland a number of times. We also discussed a new poem, Gill is working on. I feel this ache. She has been an almost constant companion for over seventeen years.

I asked the heavens for a daughter. No, I did more than that. Rob and I decided all three times that we wanted a baby and we were lucky, we had one. (Rob says, "the pleasure was all mine." Not true.) After Mike was born, we thought that two was enough but as I approached my 36th birthday, I realized that I wanted another shot at having a daughter before it was too late. If I had another son, fine. Three boys would be a delight too. But time was running out and I didn't want to regret not having tried for a baby of my own sex. So I went to my doctor and asked about sex preselection and he, good man, went to UBC and gave me all the latest literature. Whether it was the few novel and hilarious techniques or the heavens, I'm not sure but I knew before Gill was born - amniocentesis - that I was having a daughter. I jumped up and down on the bed, the day the woman called me from Grace Hospital with the results.

I just realized that I asked above why can't something, one thing, be pure joy. Well - and this is not sentiment - my children are this - yeah, I know that I've wanted to banish them at times, especially when they were younger and wanted me when I needed time alone - but oh what riches they've given me. They've also taught me lots about myself - some things that I like and others that I don't but I believe in being conscious.

So as Gill starts a new chapter, so will I.

It still isn't seven in the morning and I had to drink coffee without milk. I think I'll throw my bag lady clothes on and go down to the water and then stop at the store on the way back. Today is a free day. I'd like to do some writing - or some more writing. I feel good when I take the time to write - even if it's just for myself.