Thursday, December 29, 2005

There's something about the French - a perfectionism - that makes me feel inadequate. My nails are often chipped and dirty. My hair is messy. I seldom wear makeup. And everyone calls me Madame. I know it is a courtesy but it makes me feel old.

Rob is wiser. He took advantage of the perfectionism. He went to the most famous barber in the city to have his beard trimmed. The dapper little man sculptured his facial hair with a straight razor. It is perfect, every hair cut exactly the same length, close to his face. I am impressed. I would love to have my hair cut very French, very sassy, but I am shy and a little at a loss about where to go for the transformation as the last time I did this I paid too much and was disappointed. (Every time I see a hair salon, I peek in the window and observe.)

But most of time I forget that I am not perfectly coiffured and manicured: I just have to look up a building - say, the National Assembly - or down a long treed avenue and I feel a shiver of pleasure. This is why I'm here.

On the metro, at a cafe, on a park bench, wherever I stop to breathe - I read snippets of Maisel and so far he hasn't said anything new but I like his writing and focus on Paris. I followed one of his suggestions yesterday to the D'Orsay. Get there early, he said. Check out the main floor. Look at this Manet and write some. Go to the top, admire a Van Gogh and Gauguin - no matter that they didn't like each other - and write some more. Obviously Maisel didn't visit Christmas holiday week. When I arrived, the lineup went round the building so I went to a nearby cafe, thinking that once the museum opened, the crowd would disappear. No such luck. When I returned, the line was longer. And even though snow was falling, my feet and hands cold, and I have little patience for queues, I decided to wait.

Forty minutes later, I was inside. I wandered down some steps to a statue of Sappho, figure reclining, eyes downcast - the poet in angst, through a room of Millets - country folk in fields, to the Courbets. I like this painter, one of the first Realists. One painting, "Origin of the World," a woman, minus head, legs spread, continues to intrigue me for many reasons. (It is so unlike all his other work.)

I did dutifully go to the top floor but there were two many people gawking at the Van Goghs and Gauguins, so I ignored these mad men, and found myself in a less crowded room with Renoir. I love his painting of poppies - so light and lovely. But I find his work, for the most part, a little too sweet. But this time, I noticed, in several lesser known works, that the flesh of many of his female figures was unnaturally red... but the jostling and rudeness of the crowd was getting to me so I left to meet Gill.

I have decided to wait till next week when the children are back in school and most of the damn tourists have left (hopefully)
to visit other museums.

The last few days Gill and I have walked so many streets. She is showing me all the little boutiques she thinks I'll like - good research for the store and my next buying trip. And Rob and Brendan take off on their own, exploring different areas. Although all our feet are tired, we are stimulated and happy except we're getting poor quick - this is an outrageously expensive city to visit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mistletoe, Wood Stove, and Moi


Mistletoe, Wood Stove, and Moi
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

We might have spent Christmas in the south of France beside this wood-burning stove but instead, we took an overnight train to Paris and found ourselves in a warm, spacious, modern Paris apartment thanks to the generosity of Gill's employers.

Paris in style
Paris in style

Christmas day was lovely. Small gifts of chocolate, guide books, jewelery (designed by Gill) and a breakfast of pastries and then a walk through Luxembourg Gardens. I show here a picture of me in the gardens, vain creature that I am, because it is the only one in which I have a big smile and don't like an old bag.
Christmas Day in Luxembourg Gardens

In the evening we went to an old-world French restaurant, founded sometime in the 1600s, where Voltaire, Rosseau, Benjamin Franklin used to dine. The food was amazing. The company the best. It would have been perfect if Mike had been with us.

Boxing Day, we all had had enough of family togetherness and went our separate ways. I caught the metro to Galleries Lafayette hoping there would be an enormous sale. No luck. It was open and mad with shoppers but their winter sale doesn't start till January (after I leave, damn it.) So I left and wandered down streets until I came to the Tuileries Gardens, changed course and headed toward the Louvre. Too many people. I found a little cafe where I read my novel and ate a salad; and continued to walk along the river until I came across a WH Smith bookstore - I kid you not - and there spent a good hour or more. I bought three books.

The most extravagant is called "A Writer's Paris: a guided journey for the creative soul" by Eric Maisel. In the introduction he says: "To travel to Paris for two weeks or six months and to actually write during this time is to change your relationship to your writing." I don't intend to do anything foolish, like devote myself to writing every minute of the day but I do intend to read a bundle, journal, and walk.

Friday, December 23, 2005


We're packing our bags, cleaning, and getting ready for Paris. I thought I wasn't, for the first time, sad about leaving our village but this morning, when I looked over the valley hidden in a soft mist, the ground and trees covered in a thick frost that looked more like snow, I wondered at my heartlessness. It is so magnificent, this fertile wine country, even when frozen.

Still, on Christmas Eve day, we will be in Paris and in a warm apartment. I want to sing. And though it won't be like any Christmas we've ever spent, I'm looking forward to a long stretch in my favourite city (with my valuables worn in a secret pocket, inside my coat.)

I'm throwing on a few more pictures from Christmas past. We're all sad that Mike won't be with us. He's hibernating in the small village of Cobourg, Ontario, near my parents, with Mackenzie, his love.


A little older, a little less impressed by Santa

Michael and Santa
(This year only Mike
took me seriously when
I asked for a photo with
the white-bearded chap.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I do love Christmas or aspects of it - the mistletoe and holly, the lights, the music, the loving messages from friends, the food, and oh yes, the clinking of glasses... we shall celebrate with sparkling wine from Chateau Mayragues tonight in Susan and David's warm house. Susan's son, Adam and his two boys have just arrived for Christmas. Ruth is coming over with her viola so she and David, on his cello, can play Christmas carols. How lovely. Tomorrow evening at one minute past midnight, Rob, Bren, Gill, and I are taking the overnight train to Paris - 1st Class - there are times and this is one of them, that decadence is called for.

This year, we are finding it a little difficult to be jolly, to get in the Christmas spirit, because we're too damn cold but still I shouldn't complain: it is beautiful here in the south of France. Yesterday, Rob, Gill, and I went to Toulouse, ate lunch at our favourite quiche place, and then separated to work our way through the crowds to find small gifts for neighbours and each other. I stopped in Place de la Capitole to watch a young man, pretend to be a sculpture, until a child ran up to him and tossed a euro or two into his purse. Then he came to life, played a harmonica and juggled five white balls for a minute or two before returning to his static pose, waiting for the next toss of coins.

The children made me think of Kate who became a mama for the second time on Saturday. She gave birth to a little girl, Mary Christina - a millionaire's family, says Rob. Gill and I danced around the livingroom in celebration.

Rob and I had four Christmas' as parents of an only child before our second son arrived.

Christmas with one child

Christmas with two children

And then another four years, until Gill joined the family. She wasn't impressed that first Christmas with the man with the white beard.

Three Children with Santa

What can I say? I am finding it difficult to write these days. This morning, I felt sad reading Gill's blog, thinking of her aching, wanting warm arms, while I am within reach. I am too self-absorbed - a poor excuse for a mother, I thought for a moment or two - but I know, really I do, that I cannot (could I ever?) know when my child is unhappy and needs to be held. When I told her that her entry made me sad, she apologized. I asked her not to apologize. I would prefer, she writes what she feels.

But my mood these days is not unlike hers. That damn robbery in Paris still haunts me. If only, if only... I think at least twice a day but the crime did lead me to tell Brendan and Rob that I smoke. I couldn't stand the idea of being sneaky and underhanded, like the shit that stole my personal property.

Speaking of shit, I'm been reading some pretty tacky novels lately but the other day, I grabbed a book from the shelf and I have no idea where it came from. It's called "On Beauty: and being just." I thought it looked like a good car read so tucked it in my bag when we went to the castle for lunch with Susan and David. I wasn't immediately impressed but this morning, something in Gill's blog - perhaps "life isn't always kind" - reminded me of a passage in the book and I've searched until I found it:

"Proust, for example, says we make a mistake when we talk disparagingly or discouragingly about 'life' because by using this general term, 'life,' we have already excluded before the fact all beauty and happiness, which take place only in the particular: 'we believed we were taking happiness and beauty into account, whereas in fact we left them out and replaced them by syntheses in which there is not a single atom of either.'

Here's a picture of a particular moment - all the food and wine I could consume, with folks I love, in a fairy tale castle.
Dining in a Castle

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Exotic South of France

A Motley Pair

For some reason, it sounds exotic: "Oh yes, we're spending Christmas in Paris, after spending several weeks in our home in the south." But the reality is far from it. This is an exceptionally cold year and, as my neighbour so bluntly said (in French) "your house is a house of summer." There's no central heating and though we have three electric heaters, we can only run two at a time. We depend on our two wood-burning stoves for warmth. But warmth can only be guaranteed (and only in two rooms) if there is enough wood. Brendan ran out before we arrived and started buying sawdust logs. A few days ago, we bought 75 more and we're going through them too quickly.

A man called yesterday and told me in French that he would arrive "vendredi entre onze heures et midi." I understood enough to know that he's coming Friday between eleven and twelve, but I did not understand whether he is coming to clean the chimneys or deliver wood. I hope he is the wood man but the other would be fine too. We do need the chimneys cleaned. Our former tenants were slack and didn't have them cleaned before they moved and now, if we have a house fire, our insurance won't cover it.

In some ways, I feel as if I'm still working. I have spent countless hours on the internet, to a number of people, at the store, and also to several of our vendors. Though sorting out a few problems has taken much thought and energy, I think my job, in the future, will be less frustrating. I have also spend some time dealing with our home and business. Now I want to relax and enjoy.

And there have been moments of pleasure. Brendan and I spent a morning in Toulouse before meeting Rob at train station. We visited Albi together and enjoyed elegant food in an elegant cafe. (I was surprised and impressed to find that Bren ordered a dish and had no idea what he ordered.)

And we have been to market in Gaillac where Rob and I both bought a pair of slippers from a man off a trailor for 15 euros. Now, isn't that too sweet?

And one of our finest moments was driving through the countryside - it is as lovely in winter as it is summer and though I still prefer summer, there is something magical about the near frozen landscape - it's almost like looking at a black and white photograph - and it was such fun leading Rob to Chateau de Maraques where the owner photographed us amid his barrels and poured us a taste of sparkling wine and several reds. We bought 3 of each, nine bottles total, for all our celebrations over the next few weeks; and if there is any left we will carry a few bottles back to Vancouver.

Dream Location

When I see photographs of myself and Rob (or most people) I am shocked at my size. I don't feel little. (Note my fancy
beret that I bought in a hat shop in Albi.)

So time passes... on Saturday, my dear Gill arrives; and we're all looking forward to her presence and her cooking. Now, if only Michael could fly across and meet us in Paris, our family would feel complete.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Oh, it has been too difficult to write. I have been consumed with anger. Mostly towards myself. Who in their right mind would carry a wallet full of money and credit cards in Paris?

And then I am struck with a cold that does not allow me to think clearly, that keeps me awake at night. I cough and rasp. I am a fountain. I am Rudolph.

And then I hear from the store. They are playing with changing my idea for the finale of the Advent Calendar. I am struck with anger at their stupidity. I can't sleep. I think all is ridiculous. Especially me. Why am I doing a job where I am not sufficiently rewarded or appreciated? I am about to quit, to walk away.

I am Atlas (or so I imagine.)

I have just read "Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles" by Jeanette Winterson and the one paragraph that grips me reads as follows:

"The ancients believed in Fate because they recognized how hard it is for anyone to change anything. The pull of past and future is so strong that the present is crushed by it. We lie helpless in the force of patterns inherited and patterns re-enacted by our own behaviour. The burden is intolerable."

And then amid all the heaviness are Gill, Brendan, and Rob. And though I can't quite escape my weight, these three, in their individual ways, help me to see my worth more clearly, to laugh at myself, to become lighter.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

What can I say? I am in Paris, my beloved Paris and I am angry. I had four hours sleep after more than 35 awake and still my mind and body won't let me slip away and dream.

I stepped from the Roissybus, in front of the magnicent Opera building and within five minutes my wallet was gone - all my credit cards, debit cards, and cash. And to add to my anger, I was carrying more cash than I usually do. But I didn't know immediately that the young woman who bumped against me, or rather my knapsack on my back had, in an instance, unzipped my bag and taken my fat little wallet.

I'm glad I didn't know in the beginning because I wandered the street and found Cafe de la Paix where I was to meet Gill. I looked in the door and there she was - how confident, beautiful she looks, I thought, as she talked to the bartender. I went in and watched her for a minute. Gigi, I said. Gigi. Gigi. She continued talking to the Irish man (ah yes, they have infiltrated Paris)
and finally she heard me, saw me, and leaped up and gave me a big hug. She had a drink. I had a glass of wine. And we talked and laughed and then I reached in my bag to pay for the drinks and no wallet. I panicked, searched all my bags but it was really and truly gone. And every since I have been talking to myself, asking why, why, why, why did you take so much cash (300 euros), why did you carry all your visas... and so on and so on. But the good news was that I didn't put the bank draft I brought for our French bank account in my wallet which I usually do.

I did call Brendan and Rob and the store who had my numbers and all is cancelled (though the thief, I think, had already spent 3000. And I have to try to get a driver's license today for the car I am supposed to rent Monday. And Visa wants a police report so I will do that today too, after I try to access funds from our French account.

There is nothing I can do beyond these things and after I do them, I want to forget and enjoy this wonderful city with my daughter.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Years ago

Years ago
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

I've not much time. Today is the big event at the store and I want it perfect, elegant, and delicious, in true Leslie spirit. I have hired a young harpist to play. She is a student of the woman who played at Leslie's bedside, the night before she died. I am thinking it will add a heavenly touch to the fete.

Helen and I are preparing food soon. I must run to the store within the half hour for the ingredients.

And my head is spinning also about the departure tomorrow into the skies, moving closer and closer to the wee girl in the photograph.

Au revoir for now. I shall write again from Paris.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


My father, son, and brother
My father, eldest son, and brother

Father and Son
The man I married so many years ago and our eldest son

Middle Child
Our youngest son

The closer I get to leaving, the more jobs I find. I really did have to scan these pictures. I'm all over the place - my usual state before leaving town - and I'm doing first all the things that don't really need to be done so by the time Tuesday rolls round I'll be exhausted and sleep on the plane.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

As I organize to leave this country, coordinate a special evening for store, I wonder at my sanity. I'm moving too quickly. I fell three times in three days. Is that a warning? Sometimes, I feel as if I am following in Leslie's footsteps, that I will follow her to the grave for my obsessiveness. But Helen tells me this isn't true. I am more grounded, more flexible, more questioning. I hope so.

Last night was a treat. I went to see James Hollis speak at Christ Church with Helen and Shirley. I wrote notes so I could remember what he'd said. He is a small man, meticulous in dark suit, white shirt, and striped tie. His hair is a startling white, looks like silk, every hair in place. He could be a politician except that he speaks a strange language - about energy moving through one, spirituality but not of the institutional kind, and soul - we must ask ourselves what our soul wants. He quotes poets and philosphers. He is eloquent but not pretentious. And it is easy to grasp his ideas.

He says that we are all carriers of energy. What drives us? Our complexes and fear of death. He notes that Plato said we should consider death every day of our lives. What is important is the quality of questions we ask ourselves. We must watch the dependencies of childhood. Hollis quotes Jung in saying that we all walk in shoes that are too small for us. Sorry, I forgot to mention that the talk was on "The Second Half of Life" the title of his new book, but he notes that he isn't speaking of chronological age. Some young question their way of doing things, the established order. And besides, how are we to know when we have reached the half way point? In my mind, the phrase is simply a way to grasp the Jungian idea of individuation, of being brave enough to question, and move, trusting ones intuition, heart, soul. (Such grandiose ideas for the daughter of Irish immigrants.)

Hollis said that there are three things we must do in the second half. First, we must recover personal authority. Second, we have to balance consideration of ourselves and others. Third, we must evolve a more mature spirituality.

He spoke at length on each point. About the first, he said that we must (ugly word - I'm not sure what he used) discern what is true for us and try to live it. "What you have become is now your greatest problem." He quoted - was it Shakespeare - "no prison is more confining than the one you don't know you're in." To figure out what the problem is - any problem that we dwell on too long and hard, we must work backwards. (Am I making any sense? Let me simplify for me. I have a problem. I overreact in a certain situation. Why? Does it remind me of a similar overreaction I've experienced. What does that remind me of? And so on and so on, backwards and backwards into the distant past.)

Hollis said something here that hit home: The past is always imminent, present in us. (Why, I wonder, does the obvious sometimes feel like a revelation?)

We are all recovering children. To initiate change, we have to choose between depression and anxiety. We have to take risks (that promote anxiety) to step into larger shoes. (He described depression as "pockets of soul that have withdrawn energy" or, in other words, "soul is not pleased where we are putting our energy.") When we decide to take a risk, we should ask ourselves: "Does this enlarge or diminish me?" There will be suffering either way. (Damn it.) Another giant question to wrap our mind around is "What task is my neurosis trying to help me avoid?"

Hollis was briefer in his discussion of the second point. He spoke of honouring relationship and the mystery of the other. As in his last talk in Vancouver, he noted that we should not be looking at an other (mostly in our intimate relationship) for what he or she can do for us but simply accept him or her as a mystery. (How to do this? Hmm... if we can't even know ourselves well, don't know what is in our unconscious, how do we expect to know another being? Especially if they don't tell us what they are thinking, feeling, etc. Or their mode of expression is different than ours?)

And lastly Hollis spoke about spirituality and I wasn't able to grasp his ideas well. I always have a problem grasping the abstract, mysterious and spiritual. He said we all have an unconscious spirituality that relates to the degree to which we can tolerate ambiguity and doubt. He discussed addictions as the way we manage stress. We all have addictions. And they are the clue that there is something else going on.

Finally, he spoke of creating our own myth consciously or a myth will be created for us.

It was a good evening. Afterwards, the three of us walked down Robson to O'Douls and had a glass of wine, an appetizer, and listened to live jazz. Our conversation flowed. It was a perfect evening.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A round lemon cheesecake lies on a square plate between Brendan and I. The plate sits on a round table with a graphic eyeball drawn onto it. We’re at a restaurant inside a modern art museum, and after a shared salad and an excellent main course, we’re sharing the ultimate cheesecake. We know its good before we dive in. Brendan ordered this the other night when we came for the bar, and ended up having tea and dessert. We were so impressed with the cheesecake we thought we should come back for dinner. We skip the small talk and dig in. My fork glides through the mousse-like lemon filling, then drills its way through the crumbly crust that lies underneath. I take small bites and let the mousse melt in my mouth. It's thick, yet smooth, sweet; yet mild. It's perfect. We know it. Brendan rubs his bites into the raspberry syrup, but I don't want any distraction from the lemon. I think of my dad's sister, who used to make the most amazing cheesecakes when we'd visit for thanksgiving. Brendan tells me she made an Oreo crust. No wonder. He sets down his fork and leaves me the last bite. "Finish it," he says. "I will," I answer, and take half of the last remaining morsel and slide it through my lips. I'm slowly moving it around my mouth when Brendan looks down at the last bite and says "Too slow," as he pops it into his mouth.

oh what a place to be for cheesecake.
we all know it. new york, new york... cheesecake
the store was packed. tiny. sky blue with rainbows and hearts. "made with love just for you!" they cried out in lovely red letters. and who could deny that their claims were anything but true?
the display case was full with tiny rounds, rainbows of rounds. strawberries, chocolate, lemon, pumpkin, plain, squiggles, everything! and at 2.50 a share?
we get two, one plain, one strawberry, and a cup of milk, and take a seat on the park bench that sits underneath a miriage of photos of happy customers and employees.
my fork slips into the crumb-dusted edge of the plain cake, and it hovers in front of my mouth. at first there is nothing there but the creamiest of textures. suddenly there it is: that sweet tang. the subtle mellow sweetness with just the right edge of zing and zang. before i know it, it's all gone, and so are we, back out into the bustle of soho, dodging the shoppers and traffic.

Sitting in Bojangles. New York cheesecake in front of me. Tall cup of hot coffee too. I know I'm exhausted
but clean. Just showered. Had the most restless night in a long time. Hardly slept and set the alarm for five
to prepare for garage sale.

As I write, I eat several bites of cheesecake that melt in my mouth. Had imagined cheesecake with a tangy raspberry sauce but not to be found - tried Dalaney's first. Still this has flavour, is good good, reminds me of the old days when I
was more self-indulgent.

Yes, it is good. Too rich but still I love it though I am not now the same sweet person as way back when. (Is this a clue?) This morning I swore that I would be the bitch from hell at the garage sale - even put up a sign that read "No bargaining until after 10 a.m. - but then I put on a black cowgirl hat and couldn't play the part of bitch: I was country, down-home, maple syrup, and sold a bundle. (Later in the day, I switched to cap, worn backwards and sweet talked a guy into buying a matching one.)

Cheesecake, high thin slice, sweet, sweeter than strawberry wine. My mind spins, is tired, oh so tired. I wrap one hand around the cup and it warms me as much as the liquid in my mouth. I'm dreamy, eating cheesecake.

This morning, I did play the bitch from hell once when someone offered me too little for something. I pointed to the sign
and they stomped away.

I bite into another piece of cheesecake. It sticks to my teeth. Good. Then another. I am content but oh so weary. I wish
my head would stop talking. Bite again. Top looks like caramel. Another bite. I cannot eat more. So I ask the server
for a wrapper and take it home with me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thursday again. My life seems uneventful. I am reminded of Anais Nin who said that she lived through her writing. As I have been writing little, does this mean that I'm not living? I certainly feel no passion. (I love the word "passion". I love feeling excited about life but I don't at the moment. I feel as if I'm plodding, although I admit that the word "Paris" and the thought of a tall skinny beautiful young woman with blond hair makes my heart beat a little faster.)

Since Brendan left and Rob started working, I've been home alone and it's taking time to adjust. I wander from one activity to the other. I am being self-indulgent - whatever I feel like doing, I do. Yesterday, for instance, I woke very early and answered my correspondence on the internet and left for work at 6ish. I redid the store window in red, purple, and bronze silks, topped with black velvet and feather boas; and scattered brightly coloured sweaters and scarves, art calendars, sparkling jewelery, gold gem-studded picture frames and small velvet sachets of organic lavendar around the mannequins. I am hoping it attracts people into the store. Business has been slow.

While there, I also wrote a treatise on why it is important to have a Christmas celebration for customers, a special evening, and suggested we hire a musician, read tea leaves, even invite guests to read their own or their favourite poems (I love literary evenings). We could serve wine - cold or mulled - dainty appetizers and small sweet petit-fours, have customers draw their own discount, offer prizes throughout the evening... I remember Leslie and how she never did anything by half. All was lush and extravagant and memorable.

About nine, I headed into the city and met two of my sisters for breakfast at Cafe Barney's on south Granville. We don't get together often and I wonder why. There's something homey and sweet about catching up with my original family. Home again. Cleaned a bathroom and the kitchen. Added figures for the orders I've placed so far, mused about the orders left to place. Headed back into the city for an apointment about dreams.

On Wednesday evenings, I always looked forward to the Jungian evenings at Marlene's. I miss her. She is back studying in Zurich. I ran into a woman the other day at the grocery store, who had attended one Wednesday evening course but not the last. I hugged her and though I can't recall exactly what she wrote about, I remember her voice appealing to me. She said that she was sorry to have missed the last one, that she was in Europe for the greater part of it.

The wonderful though sometimes frightening part of writing, especially the free flow exercises at Marlene's, is finding out what I really thing about something. Perhaps that is what Nin meant. For instance, at the last meeting, during a proprioceptive write, I began with no fixed subject. I let my mind wander. At first, I wrote about beauty. I became bored. I moved on, noting that I wanted to write about something expansive. I commented on my writing itself, that it was large and flourishing, that in grade school, my teacher always told me to write smaller "as if to cramp my style, to keep me walking a straight line." And then my crazy mind jumped to Johnny Cash lyrics: "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine... because you're mine, I walk the line." And I ended questioning marriage, why fidelity is more highly regarded than fulfilling one's own needs, one's passions? An interesting subject. I noted that I just found my topic at the end of the exercise.

More soon.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

An early fall Sunday morning. It's cold. Leaves accumulate in the back garden. I grab my camera and take a picture of the new deck. Strange how something so simple (though expensive) can give me pleasure.

Work at home

I have been in the mood, the last few months, to clean up and clear out all the superfluous "stuff" in our house. I am shocked that it takes so much time and energy though it feels good. Both Rob and I have ignored our home base for too long. The only problem is that there's still too much to do. The whole house needs a paint job minus the office. One bathroom needs replaced. And our closets are stuffed and messy. If a house represents the body, in Jungian terms, then mine still needs a lot of work. I understand now the smell and clutter and dust of an old person's home. She or he or both stop looking at the little things or are just too achy to sort and clean. And what does it matter? Does it? I have always admired people with messy homes but I like my place shining and organized, not for show, but for ease of living, to be able to find what I need, to walk in the house and like the smell.

Yesterday, I met with my plums and we spoke of writing and not writing, of thinking that we would get down to the hard task of creating when all else in our life has been taken care of. But life isn't like that. Still I hope the pause I've taken from trying to write to catch up on, what I call, boring detail is worth the delay... here I grow despondent. Who am I trying to kid?

On a nicer note: Last night, Rob lit a fire in the fireplace (thank goodness) in the livingroom and I baked rack of lamb with lots of garlic and pepper, boiled baby red potatoes, steamed zuchini just the way Susan taught me; and we sat on the floor at the coffee table, listened to jazz music and ate. Home alone.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I left Brendan at the airport last night. He is on his way to London to visit a friend for a week, then Paris to visit his sister, and then down to Castelnau de Montmiral. I'm in the grip of memories. Below is a picture of my children's first visit to Paris. I recall seeing the war museum (the boy's choice) and the Eiffel Tower. I wouldn't let Gill go to the top with her brothers.

In Paris

After Paris, we went to Northern Ireland and met my parents and dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles. I don't remember what castle we're being photographed in front of. This was fifteen years ago. Rob and I travelled with all our children since they were babies. Is it any wonder that they love to roam?

In Northern Ireland

Strange with Brendan gone, Rob and I are alone. It's been just over twenty-seven years since we were only a couple though, unlike some who rush into parenthood, we had eight years as two before we decided to have children.

On November 29, I will fly to Paris to visit my baby. A week later, Rob will fly to France. We'll meet up with Bren in the south but for the first time ever, we will travel back to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Paris.

After two markets, I am obsessed with buying clothes for spring - the colours and styles that all will covet and buy and hence the store will make thousands. Dream on... I am not that cocky (lovely word) but it doesn't hurt to try.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I promise a long blog after market. I returned on Tuesday evening; on Wednesday, had lunch with friends from a fish and chip shack - the best I've tasted, in a long time, on Granville Island; had a sleep on a comfy couch; and attended Marlene's last of this session Jungian meeting in the evening. On Thursday morning I did orders and then worked all afternoon in store and then back home to work all evening. No peace for the wicked - not that I've been particularly wicked unfortunately. And today, I stole a hour to have my hair cut and pack for the late afternoon train to Seattle.

Meanwhile, as I dart here and there, Rob rests as he has a slight bout of pneumonia and has to be well to start a film on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed that he is well. Timing couldn't be worse. We just had our rotten roof and deck done to the tune of 20 grand.

Meanwhile, Bren prepares to leave on Tuesday for a three month sabbatical in Europe.

Mike called to tell me about his new position - the site of Mike's new job

All is well, simply short on time. Will return to my correspondence next week.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Sexy Maybe
Early morning, I sit in the lobby of our moorish hotel, the Figueroa, and look at photos from the past few days.
This lacey little number drew our attention and so I whipped my top off in the middle of a showroom and tried
it on. No modesty. Still no one winked an eye.

And here is Helen, full of dignity.
Helen in LA

I am tired. We are beginning our last full day of appointments and I'm sick of looking at clothes although there
have been times with Helen that we became teenagers and giggled and joked and rolled our eyes... sometimes
life is gracious and generous.

Last night was a treat. We went to dinner at the apartment of my niece Sarah and her love where she fed us well
on halibut, potatoes, spinach, followed by strawberries and whipped cream. (The desert eminded me of her mother, Kathy
when we, in the olden days, would eat strawberry shortcake for breakfast.) Sarah and Rene are so lovely, so quick, intelligent, that the conversation flowed more copiously than the wine. (Can you believe it? My body is too tired.)

Early mornings here at the hotel are so peaceful. I have been rising early, coming down to the lobby, and reading about dreams, writing a little, and am transported to another world. My time. But soon back to market. Tomorrow we are going to visit LA, search out stores - for research, of course - and then fly home in the evening. Tempus fuit.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Gill, October 1986
From the moment you were born, I loved you. This is the first picture taken after we brought you home from the hospital. The "we" was Anita and Sonia, you and me. We stopped in at Lesliejane and Leslie gave me a pile of new clothes to try on at home before you even saw your house. Is this where your love of beautiful clothes comes from?

Baby Gill & !You were my baby doll. I loved dressing you in little coats and bonnets. With your arrival, the dynamics in the house changed. Before, it was me and three males. With another female in the house, the ambiance softened. Or was it your softness, your joie de vivre that softened your father and brothers? How they loved to play with you, make you laugh - which you did often.

BandolHow beautifully you grew. This picture was taken when we were on holiday in Toulon - you, your father, me. We have been traveling together since you were little, and often it was just you and me. What patience you had with me. I seldom reserved a hotel. We would hop on a train and then hop off, and with your little suitcase on wheels, you would trudge behind me, from one hotel to another till we found one we liked and could afford. We complemented one another. When I couldn't decide where to go, I'd ask you. I doubt I'd ever have visited Pisa or Verona without your input.

High School GradWhere did the years go? You looked so beautiful in your cap and gown but then, when did you ever not look beautiful? But I also knew with this milestone in your life passed, our time living side by side, at home and on the road, was coming to an end. Several months after this photo was taken, you would leave me to attend college in Toronto. You were ready. It was me who took longer to adjust.

Beautiful DreamerI called this picture "Beautiful Dreamer." It was taken not this past summer but the summer before when you went to Spain. Your love of travel grew each summer.

Gill and her dadThis picture was taken on "Reefer Madness" when you worked with your dad. I love the love you share. You are so much alike.

Cheeky Gill and ShirinI love this picture of you and your best friend, so cheeky and so you, when your heart is light.

This summerI was so proud of you this summer - how you cooked feasts for the writing workshop, and Marlene, Ursula, and me; how you listened, translated during a difficult time, how you bought chocolate gifts for all the women in our French home; how you entertained a friend's younger daughter, how you adored a young French man, how you were so wondrously you.

Paris has changed youParis is changing you. But not the good, generous, loving core of you. I know to do you justice, I should say that you aren't perfect, that you can be moody, and that there are awkward moments between us. But surprisingly, they are rare. I can't help but adore you. I am also in awe of your courage and fortitude. When we were in Northern Ireland, it was you who insisted we stay. Although not all has been rosy in Paris, you persevere. I love you, dear Gigi, Gilly, Gillian. Happy Birthday.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Happy Birthday Rob,
59 Years Young

Rob with oysters
His lips bestow kisses that send me to heaven.

Comfortable together
His arms comfort me.

The man I married
This is the man
I swore to love and honour,
not obey.

Our children
These are our progenies and prodigies.

This morning I gave Rob a card that included
a quote by Sharon Olds:

"By knowing him, I get to know
the purity of the animal
which mates for life"

And even though it is Rob's birthday, I will not paint an ideal picture of him or us. We do not always see eye to eye. We don't always give the other what he or she needs. But what I love about him (and sometimes hate about him) is his independence because, in many ways, it forced me, then helped me to to do what I had to do to be independent. For the most part, we both do what we damn well please and sometimes it includes the other though often it doesn't.

A few days ago I was reading Woodman and I was reminded of Rob: In Conscious Feminity, she says "I think they[women] are valuing their men more. They are seeing their men as human beings and saying, 'I love you enough to say this is who I am and I will no longer pretend to be someone I'm not. I will no longer try to live up to your image of me.'" But, in my mind, it is not Rob's image of me that I have tried to live up to but more what I project is his image of me.

So I have fought myself for my independence and he, though he hasn't always been happy about my comings and goings, hasn't tried to stop me nor has he tried to make me feel guilty. This is a big deal for me and I love him for it.

" I don't know where he got
his kindness without self-regard,
almost without self, and yet
he chose one woman, instead of the others."

(Happy Birthday, dear Rob. Next year the big 60 in France.)
I have just returned from doing a fashion show for the store at the "Salmon House on the Hill". The restaurant wasn't full but one woman, who saw the show, came to store after and bought a thousand dollars worth of clothes. But what really made my heart sing were the models. They weren't anorexic professionals but beautiful, lively women, aged twenty to forty years who loved the clothes, commented on texture, colour, style, and will buy when they can afford to. Besides the shows - two more next week at the Hyatt Regency - the store is pretty demanding of my time as it always is at change-of-season.

I am still enjoying my vacation from writing though I am editing a story for Helen's cousin. It's taken me hours as it's long, over 11,000 words, and as this is his first attempt at a short story, I have to explain each comment.

And okay I do write in my journal and at Marlene's on Wednesday evening but I don't know if I want to talk about it. Sometimes I would like to forget all this Jungian stuff and be a dumb blond, accepting everything, smiling endlessly; but I can't... though often I feel as if I'm visiting hell.

I don't really understand the turbulent emotion that erupts from some dark place in me. Last night, for instance. I cringe when I think about what I read, my stomach churning, my heart beating too fast, the sweat pouring off me. But the ridiculous part is that what I wrote is no big deal to anyone but myself. And I would have cringed more if I hadn't read. "This is who you are," I tell myself. "If you don't like it, do something about it. Change."

"Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, canceled, made nothing... dipped in oblivion?" Woodman quotes D.H. Lawrence and adds: "If not, you will never really change."

And oh, I so want to be in control of myself. I feel doomed at the moment. Don't know if I'm tough enough for this world. Ever feel that way?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday again. My mind is cluttered. I woke late because stupidly, I stopped after Marlene's Jungian group last night and had a cup of tea (because my mind was uneasy about my reading) and the caffene kept me awake for hours. So I slept in and woke with Rob - practically unheard of - and lay in bed with him talking, cuddled into his warmth (so there is a bonus.) I feel as if I am getting to know him again. When he's working, the hours demanded of him, leave little time for conversation. He is always tired. But now that he hasn't had a job since August and is relaxed and nearly always at home, we talk more, go out for casual dinners, and have even caught a movie and play over the last few weeks. And yesterday, we started (he mostly) going through old boxes of memories in the storage part of the basement, hoping to eliminate the junk and keep only those things that are too precious or too difficult to throw away - like the children's teeth, all in white envelopes with a message and sometimes a picture for the tooth fairy - and I was reminded of the "us" in the old days, before and during our children's childhoods.

And speaking of childhood, when I finally crawled out of bed, made coffee and came out to my house in the garden, I found an email from my friend, Nita, telling me that my heart would warm if I read her daughter's blog. ("Jenn's journal") and it did. Jenn tells of her impression of me when she was eleven or twelve (over eighteen years ago.) Strange how all those years of raising children become a jumble and I thought I had lost myself amid the diapers, playing tooth fairy, school concerts, and parent/teacher meetings, and Jenn tells how she felt like an adult in my company, how I would "genuinely listen to the things [she] said" and how it meant much to her, still does.

I, who have great admiration for people who truly listen, am more than pleased that I had the wherewithal to listen to her. Jenn is an extraordinary young woman who received her doctorate in science from M.I.T. several years ago (whose professor was just awarded a Nobel prize) and yet I remember her best as a lanky teenager, awkward with her tall self, but always sweet, quiet more often than not, studious though playful especially with "Gigi" and how she came to me for reading advice and books.

I am a little surprised, I hate to admit, that I listened. I was so frantic during those years. And I struggle still to listen - sometimes it is easy but more often than not, it isn't. My mind likes to wander. I have to remind myself to drop all thought and concentrate on the person speaking. (Marlene has it down to a fine art. I remember the first course I took with her - journal writing at UBC - and I would watch her, fully focused on the person who was reading - I probably should have been listening - and how her attention never swayed. Several years ago, she told me how she once had to dig her fingernails into her hand to stay alert as she had had very little sleep the night before.)

Marlene, if you haven't guessed, is a mentor as well as friend whom I love dearly. Sometimes my head starts spinning around her. One moment, she is an imp, a daredevil, a dancer, a confidant; and the next, she is sitting in front of a group of women teaching, elaborating, reciting poetry, containing, listening. I can't even begin to describe how much I have learned from her and continue to learn, how much "permission" she had given me to be myself. And it was her birthday on Monday and I forgot. The next morning I woke with a start and thought "oh no", ran downstairs to the calendar, and saw that the 3rd was indeed Monday. Talk about complexes: I beat myself up, thought I wasn't much of a friend if I forgot a birthday. And I regret too that I didn't do a blog in her honour, but I think she knows that I love her.

Now, I would like to speak briefly about what I learned, thought, and read last night (an edited version) but there is no time, I must dress for work. (Thank goodness. I need more time to think about what was revealed to me last night.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Every Sunday at noon Gill, Karyna, and I choose a sweet, eat and write about it. As Gill is in Paris, Karyna in Montreal, and me in Vancouver, we're not really writing at the same time. This was yesterday's entry:

Alas, I couldn't eat a lemon tart this morning as I was painting the office at home an icy white - a colour Bren chose months ago for the hallway and there was...

(Just a minute: my lemon tart, sitting in front of me, is calling. I had cut it into four pieces, made myself a cup of English Breakfast tea, and carried it out to my house in the garden at 6 p.m.. Can't wait another minute. A quarter of a quarter fills my mouth. Oh my god, it's good. Another mouthful finishes the quarter. I lick my fingers, sip some tea.)

just too much paint - over two tins - though I had wanted colour in the office, I am too parsimonious to waste what is already in the house; and besides, I collected a number of colour charts and couldn't decide what I wanted so took the easy route. I'm happy. The room looks like an ice castle though not at all chilly. The grey of the deck's new cover reflects through the double glass sliding door onto the walls.

(Another bite of lemon. I'm in heaven. Why do I like lemon tarts so much? Finished last of second quarter.)

When I was little, my mama said that when she left home (after a shotgun wedding), she made herself a lemon pie and ate every bit of it herself. I was not the child in her womb so I haven't come be my love of lemon honestly. She told me, at this time, I was just a twinkle in my father's eye.

(Here goes another bite. A small drop nearly escapes my mouth but I use my baby finger to shove it in. I finish the quarter and take another sip of tea. I am being bad on two counts. First, I am not writing at the prearranged time and second, I am eating my dessert before dinner.)

After I finished rolling on the first coat of paint, I ran, showered, and left for work muttering "I'm late. I'm late..." had to open store and worked till 5:30, grabbed a bus to Capers, ravenous as I had not eaten lunch though Rob had made me breakfast but after stomping up hill from the store, lemon tart in hand, he said that he wasn't hungry yet and could I wait: he would prepare dinner later (do I have it good?) and so I had to pretend my tart was an appetizer or die of hunger.

(Am just about to devour last quarter. Instead of biting into it, I lick the surface slowly, coating my tongue, then lick my lips. I feel like a child. Repeat the action, thinking that if anyone were to touch my lips with theirs, they'd receive a sweet-and-sour kiss. I pop the last of my tart in my mouth, then with the back of my hand wipe away the crumbs.)

I am exhausted.

Gill just sent me permission to publish her lemon tart episode:

The lemon tart sits beside Aimee's strawberry tart in a piece of paper, wrapped into the shape of a triangular dome. The dome sits triumphantly on top of two ham sandwiches and drinks for our lunch. As we wait for our train to arrive, I can't wait. I unwrap the two fat tarts and give into sweet temptation. I don't know what to expect from it. It's small and thick, unlike the flat round ones from Capers I'm familiar with. I'm afraid it won't compare. Citron is scrolled in black icing on the top, along with two almond flakes that fell off another dessert. I dig my teeth in. The lemon insides are thick and sweet, like a lemon cream cheese. It is rich, but not sickly sweet, and I groan with pleasure. Aimee asks if I want to trade a bite for a bite. I say no. Soon after I feel selfish, and pass her my tart so she can have a taste. I'm happy to have it back in my hands afterwards. I try to enjoy it as much as we can while keeping up conversation. The train arrives, and we climb on, tarts still making their way into our mouths. I feel like apologizing to my lemon tart, because it deserves more of my attention than this. It is good. I know it is good. My smile widens every time it enters my mouth. When I finish my last bite, I'm truly satisfied. But next time I'll eat it alone.

Kate needs 4999 readers for her three short stories: "Kate's stories". Pass the word.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Is it Thursday already? I've been working at the store all week, hours here and there; and yesterday I started clearing the office at home in preparation to paint, filing papers, moving the larger pieces of furniture and filling holes in the wall, but there is one large tear that requires joining tape. Sigh. Have to go to the hardware store this morning before work at store this afternoon. Nothing is easy but I have been complaining about this room for years (yes, years) and it's time to take action.

This morning, Kate wrote: "My self-confidence and self-doubt could work as a wonderful team. If they didn't take turns over-powering each other." Kate's journal

Yesterday, self-doubt, despair almost, filled me as I filled the holes with polyfilla. Wish it were as easy to repair myself. All day I was on the verge of tears and was still there when I arrived at Marlene's door early evening and even a bowl of her hearty lentil soup didn't restore my humour. Two thoughts come to mind. One holds Rich's quote: "There comes a time, perhaps this is one of them, when you have to take yourself seriously or die." And the other is Woodman's idea of the abandoned child within, who has to be allowed a voice, who has to be embraced, loved even, before she/I can be brought to "maturity and health."

Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. How can I, a woman of 56 years, a wife, a mother, be so juvenile? I am usually so capable. I usually love my life. How can I regress to childhood, feel like a little girl who wants to find a corner in which to hide and cry? And if I understand Woodman, I am supposed to respect this part of myself? My natural inclination is to deride it, beat myself up. I am more compassionate with others who are having a "bad day". It is hard to admit that I am human. Why, I wonder. I think it links back to women feeling stupid when they tell something that is not rational, that has an air of whimsy, that erupts from the body, not the mind.

So last night, Marlene made clear another couple of chapters of Woodman's "Conscious Femininity" and, as several women, noted, it is good to have Woodman's ideas clarified and discussed as she is not an easy read. Several women chose to write about play, something our society does not take seriously enough. This subject, though I did not write about it last night, sits close to my heart as I wrote a piece about play years ago and am still trying to get it right (oh yes, I dabble still.) Woodman discusses the importance of play, in one section, for relationship: "People get so depressed about responsibilities and duties of marriage that when they see somebody out there with whom they can play they are fatally attracted." We need to play, to use our imaginations creatively, together and singularly otherwise "we just die."

Hmmm... playing with others, playing with ourselves. My mind slips into the gutter. I am becoming lighter. Oh why not?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Okay, back to the little things. I keep thinking of that damn cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back." (Rob noted that I do not have a "comment" feature on my blog. I said that if he wants to respond to yesterday's blog, I will publish it.) I wonder if he is lucky or unlucky to be married to a woman who publicly tells the "little things" of the marriage. I remember once when I was writing about my mother, he criticized me, said that I was being cruel. "But it actually happened," I said. "If we keep all the little things, the meat of the situation, to ourselves and everyone else does too, we would never say anything important, we would live in a world of platitudes." One of the most honest and bravest writers of relationship I have read, who tells the personal details of her marriage, is Nancy Mairs. (I have just pulled "Voice Lessons" from my book shelf and as I skim through it to find a passage, that must be in another book, I see that it is time to read this book again.)

I see too that anyone can talk about marriage, love, lust, in generalities but when a writer tells of holding her husband's soft penis in her hand, of the pain that steals her breath when he tells her of his affair, as Mairs does, I am all ears and I love her for confirming that life, relationship, is not a fairytale, that I am not alone...

I wander. In "Conscious Femininity" Woodman writes about a competent woman, "very professional, highly respected" who wants to bring her a muffin in her analytic hour but thinks it foolish and then finds herself in such a state that she goes and buys the muffin and eventually gives it to Woodman who receives it, breaks it in half and they both enjoy it. Woodman explains that the muffin emotion stems from the woman's childhood and her state from her fear of rejection. And Woodman tells this "simple story" to illustrate that little things can have greater ramifications. And, in my mind, she gives us permission to do or talk about the things that may appear, at first, irrational, especially those that evoke strong emotion - like having someone close a window - because it eases a past injury and fulfills some need.

What triggered these thoughts is the question I wrote to Wednesday evening "What do I know about my "individual standpoint?" I can not assume a person (Rob, in the instance I gave) understands my standpoint. He was not raised by Irish immigrants nor was he the second daughter of six children and so on and so on, nor did he have a tyrannical father. If I do not communicate my thoughts, I leave him at a disadvantage and I betray myself. I am learning, and it's hard going, to speak my mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I said I would blog on Thursday and so I will though I have little time this morning as I slept late but Kate reminded me yesterday of my intention to write weekly and I love Kate, love her honesty and earnestness and writing; and love that she wants to read me. And there are several other friends (all women) who tell me that they are disappointed when they check my blog site and find nothing. And though I can count my readers with the fingers on one hand, they are all extraordinary women and, at the risk of sounding corny, I will say that I am grateful and pleased, in my heart and soul, that they tell me that my meandering thoughts are worth reading.

So what have I been up to? I am still trying to move slow and easy and not put pressure on myself though it is difficult. I want to do everything well. Is this Addiction to Perfection or is it simply taking time to enjoy process? Perhaps a bit of both but I am enjoying my life more. And I'm finding that the little things hold the most meaning.

For instance: Rob and I went to the Fringe Festival last weekend to see "Broad Comedy", a series of short skits, by five women from Montana, that poked fun at everything from shaving (especially pubic hair) to virginity. We left the house early and moved towards the car. Rob climbed into the driver's seat. I had driven last and when he turned the key, my country station on the radio blared out. He changed the station to one that appealed to him. I put down my window. He used the master control, to the left of the driver's seat, to put it up. I felt my body shrink as if I were a little girl and the man who held the power was behind the wheel. (Does it sound like I'm making a mountain of a mole hill?) I turned to Rob and said, "If this was our first date would you change the radio station and close the window, without asking?" He said he found the lyrics of the song playing offensive. I repeated my question. He lowered my window and said, "Probably not." I told Rob that I was going to tell him when things bother me. (I don't want to misrepresent Rob. He is a kind man and most often we are harmonious and agreeable to the other and, unlike the man of power of my childhood, he listens and is fair.)

But as I wrote about this last night at Marlene's Jungian Circle (and didn't read because I want to think things through and again, didn't want to misrepresent Rob or sound like I was making excuses for him) I see that I betray myself too often because I think the situation too small to become all hot and bothered about...

(I really have to dress and get to work as I'm opening the store but will return later (I promise) and continue.)

Oh, I wish I could think more clearly but the end of the day is my worst. I went to work and a mother and daughter came in to look at blouses. The mother had one of the sweetest faces I've ever seen. She proudly told me she was ninety. She didn't buy anything but the two were a pleasure to talk to. And then another woman flew in and tried on a few items but didn't buy either. But she gave me a hot tip on a film: "See Women in Lavender," she said. I completed a ton of paperwork and then Helen arrived with a egg salad sandwich and a fresh peach sliced in a plastic bag, a fork and a napkin so I wouldn't go hungry. My friends know that I don't eat often enough unless I am served. Now how sweet is this?

It was a morning of sweetness and then we, Helen and I, took off for the Fashion Exchange in Vancouver to try to find accessories for winter. I hate to say it but Vancouver market is boring (or have I said this before?) The only two reps who had anything worth buying had already sold to retailers in West Vancouver. I returned to the store.

Sigh. Now I am home and too tired to talk about the "little things' and what they signify. I will try to blog tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I have decided to blog once a week, unless something surprising happens. So Thursdays I will post my thoughts, unless I don't feel like it. I'm being self-indulgent. I am feeling lighter than I have for some time.

What have I been up to? I have been working a lot, reading cheap novels ("guilty pleasures" as Kate calls them).

Last night I returned to Marlene's writing circle to hear her explain "Conscious Femininity". I could sit and listen to her all night. In my mind, she's a/the Woodman authority. (Who else has read "The Pregnant Virgin" at least twenty times and explained its meanings to dozens of women?) Marlene told of when she taught a bodysoul intensive in Santa Barbara with Marion (and Ursula) and how she lead the group in a proprioceptive writing exercise, and how pleased (?), delighted (?), enchanted (? - I can't remember the word she used - Marion was with the writing and reading, inspired by her text.

As we always do the first evening, Marlene had us introduce ourselves and explain why we were there. I always feel shy, find it difficult to talk, to listen to my own voice, in a group situation, whether I know the people or not. I said something to the effect that there is no where else I'd like to be. Where else can you gather, after school is long gone, and study books, ideas, in depth; and discuss interpretations with others who are as enamoured with the subject matter as you are?

One of the best parts of the evening, besides Marlene's talk and the stretch of concentrated writing time, is listening to other women's writing, hearing their stories. One of the most difficult parts for me is reading my writing. I always expose more of myself than I'd like strangers to know even though I know that this is good for me as a writer (oops I don't want to give myself that title.) I read because I want to become more and more comfortable with my "wayward" thoughts. I am not polite. I do not use nice language. There is an imp in me who wants a voice. I censor her less and less often these days. And yet I worry that she will go too far.

I worry too much. As I write this entry, I wonder if I sound stupid but apparently I am not alone. In "Conscious Femininity", Woodman, in an interview, says: "Generally speaking, the feminine is thought of as irrational and stupid. Women will come out with a feminine statement and then say, 'Oh that was stupid to say that.' It's the circuitous way the feminine moves. She moves like a snake, back and forth and around and deep and around."

Last night my writing, much to my surprise, moved in a circle and returned to my summer theme of the abandoned child taken from another sentence in a Woodman book - "In living the abandoned child within herself, the woman becomes pregnant with herself." I can't quite grasp its meaning or relevance for me but I trust myself enough to know that it is important and that I must write it out.

And so I wrote about the skinny little girl I once was and her joy of being naked, escaping her parents' house, running to the neighbours, and for this she was chastised, punished, molded into a socially acceptable being. In recent years, my mother admits that she raised her children to the old maxim "children should be seen and not heard." (But not naked.)

Don't read me wrong here. I love my mother's spark and fire. I am not criticizing, bashing her. She was younger than Gill when she had her first child and, as Gill has learned recently, children aren't easy and must learn to be socially acceptable, to respect others' boundaries. Interesting that I can see my child from both sides now. But, when a child, the constant admonitions to be quiet and not disturb the adults were read by me, in my writing last night, to mean "be a mouse, pretend you don't exist."

There is a leap in thought in my writing here. I question why I am afraid of others' anger, demands, harsh voices, or simply firm voices. I become frightened, speechless. I fear fierceness even when I see another person is being unreasonable. The other day, for instance, a woman brought a three piece outfit back to the store because the cami had lost its scalloped edge when she washed and pressed it. In fact, none of the pieces looked as good, to her eyes, after being washed. She wanted her money back for all three pieces. I examined the outfit. The woman was a lousy ironer but there was nothing wrong with the merchandise. I told her so. She became angry, disagreed with me. Finally I lied and told her that I didn't have the authority to return her money and would speak to the manufacturer and owner. (The next day, after discussing the situation with another sales person in the store, I decided to give her her money back on the cami and let her keep it rather than risk losing her as a customer and having her bad mouth the store. She was happy)

My writing meandered, at this point, from my house and my need to clean, unclutter, so I can find what I want when I need it, to my small office/writing house in the yard where I want to be still, naked or clothed, and write and read. "I don't want to do something because it is good for me. I want to do what I want cause I want. No fancy words. No pretensions. Straight forward. I want to wander on the page until I can write nonsense and not puke, so I can fill myself with crude, noisy words from the gut, from the cunt, from somewhere that doesn't shy away from anything, that doesn't judge, that flows, finds passion, makes love figuratively speaking but how nice to be literal too. I sense a playfulness starting to happen here - that's it, I'm back to the imp, the nymph who hopped and skipped, smiled and laughed... back to the abandoned child who, in the beginning wasn't abandoned. I know her and see that she does come out to play."

Wow. It always amazes me where my writing takes me (though of course I'm not writing at the moment.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

After an extravagant evening last night with friends - for Gill's benefit, I will mention that we feasted on salmon and chicken; many salads including bean and feta, exotic tomato, Greek potato, lentil; French cheeses, cake and chocolate, and yes, yes, wine and sparkling water - I slept well and slipped down to the water this morning with a coffee. A few yards away, a man in hip-waders was fishing - the only other person on the shore at seven.

I haven't been writing and have hardly given it a second thought until a woman came in the store yesterday and ask what I was working on. "I've quit writing," I answered. She paused and said, "you'll always be a writer to me."

At the moment, I want to collect my thoughts and get my domestic life in order. Our house is falling apart. When a carpenter friend came to repair the deck the other day, he told us that it was beyond repair. Now he is rebuilding it to the tune of eight thousand dollars. As we have two large pots in the front hall to catch rain water, we must also repair the roof - another ten grand, at least. We had intended to replace a truly ugly bathroom but that will now have to wait for next year.

To help with cost, I have been working in the store every day. I will continue not writing unless I can't help myself but, as Kate has been nudging me to send stories out, or rather send old ones to new places, I will do so. (I cleaned my filing cabinet the other day and am quite proud of the thickness of my rejection-notice file. Long ago, I swore that once I had gathered 150 rejections I would quit writing. I have a way to go.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vancouver market: sweaters made in Viet Nam

The past week I've been concentrating on store business. Tuesday morning, Sherry (a woman from store) and I went to the Vancouver market to look at sweaters, handknit in a village in Viet Nam, for spring. They didn't excite me (note picture) but they are reasonably priced and do sell. While we were in the showroom, one sales representative showed us a new line of belts, big wide leather belts, that are the hot item for spring. She tried one on to show us how they look and mentioned her fat belly.

Big Belt

I looked at her in amazement, then anger, and surprised myself, by lambasting her. "What stomach? How can you talk about your body like that?" She rolled her eyes. "Fuck, women make mad when they put down their own flesh." (Sherry grinned. Later she told me that this is what she loves about me, that I speak my mind.)

I used to think that working in a clothing store was unintelligent, that women and men who spend too much time preening don't have a lot going on upstairs. Such arrogance. Working with Leslie, working in the store, has taught me as much about women and their relationship to their bodies (and their partners) as about buying and merchandising. (I have grown to love sensuous fabric, design, colour. I think clothing should be sexy, fun.) I also see that clothing reflects self image. There are more women that complain about their size and shape - breasts too big or small, hips likewise, no bottom or too much padding, too long-waisted or short - than women who stride in and smile at their reflection. These women - and most are not classically beautiful - have shown me that looking good, even gorgeous, has nothing to do with size or shape and everything to do with spirit and liking oneself.

Oh dear, do I sound like I'm lecturing? My thoughts are drifting. I am thinking about a time in my past, perhaps fifteen years ago, when I felt dead, when I hated my body, thought it was repulsive. And then a man pointed out to me that I was always caressing the rounded bellies of sculptures. He wondered how I could take such delight in these and not in my own that spoke of my history, of the children I had born. And I am thinking also of Woodman who in her book "Bone" lovingly holds her stomach and, if I am remembering correctly, apologizes to it for her sabotage over many years.

And speaking of sabotage, in the store, I am constantly surprised by women who hide things from their husbands (I thought this trait belonged to my mother's generation.) Some ask to have the price tag removed. Others split the cost between their visa and debit cards. One woman told several of us behind the counter that, because she has no private income and her husband is cheap, she gets extra cash every time she uses her debit card in the grocery store (he doesn't mind money spent on food) and tucks it away for personal items.

So I am lying low, not doing much more than working in store. At times, I think myself boring, but I am not bored. Yet.

Friday, August 26, 2005

First Child

Twenty-seven years ago today I became a mother. I was enthralled at first. I kept looking at his small body in awe (though he was over 9 pounds): I had doubted that my body could create a human being.

Rob and I ran to him everytime he whimpered and hated it when he cried. We nearly drove ourselves crazy trying to take care of him. So, after several months, when a friend asked if I was "just staying at home", I angrily replied that looking after a baby was the hardest work I'd ever done. (I wasn't writing in those days.)

We measured him when he was two years old because we were told that that would tell his adult height. We figured he would be around five feet but he is closer to six. Who is this young man?

My oldest son, in my estimation, is an intensely private individual so I will not got go on at length about him. He has also told me that he doesn't want to mark this day in any special way.

But it is also my birth day as a mother and I love birthday celebrations. So I am sitting here at 5:30 at night with a glass of wine, thinking of my son, thinking how grateful I am....

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I am having trouble writing these days. I am having trouble doing everything but, as I write this, I see I am full of nonsense. I am always doing. Since I returned from Los Angeles, I have driven Rob to airport, worked many hours at store and on orders for holiday, have had the deck power-hosed, and am slowly putting our house in order. I have neglected it horribly, not for two months but for more like two years, no more - the Mexican tile floor hasn't been waxed for three years. As there are only so many hours in the day, I have simply not had the time is my excuse. There is too much else that I want, need, to do.

Writing, for one. Bah humbug. I hate writing at the moment. I call myself a writer but I am a fraud. Oh yes, I write in my journal. I occasionally write this blog but I do nothing, nothing, toward earning a living as a writer. And I am sick of the guilt. And I am fed up with my procrastination. I am not a writer. And yet I would like to be but how to find the stamina, the resolve, the dedication, the time?

Oh yes, I have been wallowing, big fat lazy wallows, and I have to remind myself that I encourage others to wallow. I think it good for the soul. I think one must wallow till one is fed up with oneself, until one can laugh at one's exaggerations. I am nearly at the point of laughing...

What I want most is to be excited about life and there have been times, with my writing, that I have been excited, but these moments are rare and I can't remember the last time I felt this way. I find myself holding back, analyzing too much, not putting what I want on paper. I'm sick to nearly death of my passionless state, of my moaning and groaning, of my little white lies when someone asks me what I'm working on and I pull something from the past just not to look a fool. I'm working on nothing, nothing.

And then, last week, or was it the week before, I was at Banyan Books, exploring the discount table, and found Roger Housden's"ten poems to change your life". I waivered at first about buying it because I knew and loved six of the ten poems but I thought "what the hell, it'll be nice to read someone else's interpretation" and so I bought it. (I returned yesterday and bought three more copies.) I have just finished it and intend today to start back at the beginning for I felt something stirring inside, a small spark, a confirmation that I still have fire in me somewhere.

Long ago, when I first started writing, I wrote, much to my amazement and horror, "I spread my legs and exposed the blood of a woman." I nearly edited the sentence; it embarrassed me so. (Thank goodness, I know a good line when I see it.) Since then I have become more outrageous (outrageous for me) with my writing. And it has become easier to write that which shocks my inner censor and my mother. (Oh will I ever grow up?) I love writing that is grounded in the body, that isn't high brow, that is accessible to all. I love when the body is used as a metaphor for nature, writing that speaks of the body - every square inch - and reveals that attitude to body, whether it be joyful or shameful, carries over into world view.

So I am reading Housden (who I am now in love with) and he includes a poem, formerly unknown to me, by Galway Kinnell called "Last Gods" and it is so delicious and erotic, I become excited. And Housden's explanation arouses me more. The poem, unexpected from the title, is about love making, touching, tasting, eating (oh yes... the author, according to Housden, reminds us "how entwined the acts of eating and making love are, both of them an entering and being entered.") But it's the simplicity of Kinnell's language and his unabashed delight in the animal body and the mingling of two bodies, and how he aligns it to the pleasure of the gods that sets my head spinning. Listen to the beginning of the poem:

"She sits naked on a rock
a few yards out in the water.
He stands on the shore,
also naked, picking blueberries.
She calls. He turns. She opens
her legs showing him her great beauty."

I have never heard the vulva (that Housden mistakenly calls "vagina") being so lovingly described. The poem gets better and better and makes me wonder how I could ever think it ugly (oh I remember, my mother told me it was) and how sex is such a gift (is gift from the gods too corny?) and how we (notice the person shift) are not free enough, open enough, joyous enough.
I once wrote an essay - I have no idea where it is - about love-making and I noted that how we are sexually with another tells all about the relationship. If we are hesitant, silent, shy, agressive, in bed, we are most likely the same with the other in all aspects of the relationship. The one informs the other. I wonder about a world that is more often than not afraid to speak of the body and its "private" parts (unless pornographic), that is even ashamed of them - and unfortunately this applies to women more than men. This can't be good for the soul.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Los Angeles Fashion Market

Los Angeles Fashion Market
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Last night I flew in from Los Angeles market where Helen and I had been searching out fashion for holiday and resort. Rob met me at the airport and I swore that I would not get on another airplane until the next LA market in two months.

I'm tired of travelling. Rob, who hasn't been anywhere since we returned from France last year, leaves Tuesday for New Brunswick to visit his mother and then on to New York for five days of fun. I jokingly suggested that I meet him in New York and he agreed. But it was a joke. I need to say put. It was two weeks today that I returned from London, Paris, Castelnau de Montmiral.

After so much travel, after the events of this summer, I feel the need to go into a cocoon.

Early mornings in Los Angeles, while Helen and most of the hotel guests slept, I would take my journal and sit out by the pool. My writing, for the past few months, has been mostly in my private journal and takes me back to when I was a flat-chested little girl with a bowler haircut standing rigidly, staring into the lens of a camera. (So many memories are triggered by photographs.)

The serious little girl was very very good or so say her memories, confirmed by her mother who tells her that she was her easiest child. She knew how to please. Manipulate comes to mind but I think this unfair. A child does what she must to be loved. Again and again this word "love" finds its way onto my page. What do I mean by love? Accept, listen, understand, embrace, adore. It means thinking the best of me even when I cannot. As an adult, it means not molding or betraying myself, speaking my mind whether I am rejected or not. Again and again, David Whyte's lines run through my brain: "anything or anyone/ that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you."

I am fifty-six years old and still struggle with the idea that one must behave, conform to the rules of polite society, to be loved. (Does this sound silly or trite? So be it.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

My other life

My other life
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Saturday evening, Helen and I caught a train to Seattle. All day Sunday, we looked at clothing lines for the holiday season and resort. I've learned that I have a good eye for fashion and having Helen to yea or nay what appeals to me makes the work less stressful and more fun.

Over the next few days, I will be doing paperwork from the market and from the summer writing workshop. On Thursday, I leave for Los Angeles.

But I plan to take it slow and easy. Rob has finally finished work and I want to spend some time with him as he leaves for New Brunswick and New York a day after I return.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Loving Arms

Loving Arms
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

I love this picture of Gill and Marlene together. Reminds me of a few lines from an Alden Nowlan poem:

"... it's what we all want, in the end,
not to be worshipped, not to be admired,
not to be famous, not to be feared,
not even to be loved, but simply to be held."

I'm still missing Gill. I wish I had been there to hold her after fair Hugo bid her farewell. (The young man must be mad. No. He is young.)

I am thankful to Marlene, Ursula, and Gill for making my dream of a writing house for women in France come true, for a third year. They are never a breeze, these workshops: they take a lot of energy, psychologically and physically, but they are worth it. And this year, I am extra grateful, as Gill was in the picture. It took me more years than I care to admit to appreciate the love and support of women. (When I was Gill's age, I preferred the company of men.)

When Gill was tiny, perhaps four years, I remember her toddling behind Susan on a grassy hill in France, on the look out for wild flowers. I was thankful that such an extraordinary woman was part of her life. I felt the same way when I looked out the window and saw her, leaning against Madame Rouge's garage, Marlene's arm around her.


I must run and shower. This morning I will atend my first Plum meeting in several months. At six this evening, I take off by train, with Helen, to a clothing market in Seattle.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


"What do I feel," the woman asks herself.

She sits on a log by the water early morning, watching two brave souls in swimsuits jump into the icy cold. She has been up since 4 a.m. when she had to find a flashlight to light her way to her garden house.

She thinks she could update her live journal but can't think of anything to write. Still, she tries: "I have been home three days.... Blah, everyone knows this." She has done little since she returned even though there is much she could do. There are papers on the diningroom table that were there two months ago when she left. Her husband and son tell her that they have not been home much. They have not eaten at the table since her departure. In fact, after throwing too much rotting food from the refrigerator, they stopped buying food.

Earlier, she had walked to a local coffee shop, bought coffee and a muffin (no croissant alas) and sat reading Naomi Shihab Nye for she thought, since reading Winterson the week before, that poetry might ground her. After ten hours in the sky moving across eight time zones, even Nye's words do not help.

"How do I feel." she asks herself again.

There is a flutter in her stomach. Every time she leaves her city home and flies to her village home and returns, she wants to bring something... something tangible, back with her. She is not sure what. She only knows that she breathes easier there, that she runs less.

She wraps her arms around herself and rocks. She is mother and child inseparable. Several weeks earlier, when feeling ugly and grim, she had imagined roses blooming inside her body (though this was something she would not write about.) This was another of her secrets.

At one time, she had too many secrets. She was so weighed down by them that she had to let them go, one by one, until she was light enough to climb up on tables and dance.

But new secrets are weighing her down and she doesn't know if she has the courage to begin again and open up. She recalls a quote a friend sent her: "... and the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom..." (Anais Nin)

"Damn it all anyway," she thinks. "I am not a rose. I am 'as common as a field daisy.'" (Mary Oliver)

She becomes cross with herself. She would like to throw all the quotes stored in her brain in the garbage and rely on her own words, her own wisdom, her own voice even if it means using third person. And she wonders if there is anything original about her. Who is "I" she wonders. "Is there any eye." She cringes at her spelling. Too cute, she thinks. This is not the way she likes to write. She wants to write from the body, from an earthier self. She is afterall the daughter of a daughter of a farmer.

She has been home three days and she has allowed herself to do as she pleases. She eats, sleeps, no matter the hour. She cuts blackberry bushes but not the ones with berries. She scrubs the refrigerator until it sparkles. She redoes every display in "her" store until it pleases her eye. When she looks through the doors into these spaces, she feels content. For a moment or two. She worries that she is too flighty, that she will never get down to the serious business of writing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Last View of Paris

Last View of Paris

I'm out once more in my house in the garden in Vancouver, though the blackberry bushes have grown so that they blocked my path and I had to use clippers before I could find my way down. How strange to be home in my other life, sharing a bed with a man, the man who has shared most of the intimate moments of my life.

Arriving last night, when the huge bird landed, I felt an excitement surge through my body. I passed through immigration quickly. My suitcase was one of the first on the carousel. I sped through the doors leading to the public area, searching for the faces of my two guys. There they were, smiles as big as mine. Big bear hugs. It felt as if I'd been away for a year, not two months.

Driving from the airport, everything looked so big, so new. I have so many images that I have not recorded from the past few days - leaving Gaillac, waving to Gill and David, sitting in the local train, so many tears running down my face that the man checking tickets forgave me for not having one (the ticket machine in Gaillac was broken), sleeping with three strangers in the overnight train to Paris, walking through Parisian streets, dragging my bag, to find Shirley at her hotel, catching the Eurostar to London, and Shirley and I endlessly walking there.

Two images of these two cities stay with me. The dancing, joyous Pan, at the entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. The mythic Richard, "Coeur de Lion" standing outside the grandiose Westminster parliament in London.

I feel torn as I always do when I arrive home. I love the south of France, my sleepy little village, the quality of food and wine, the quieter, less hectic lifestyle. It feels more romantic, more earthy, more poetic there. But I weep most because I left my daughter, which is as it should be at this time in both of our lives but still it tears me apart. And it is beautiful here but more important to me, are the people I love - Rob and his wonderful arms, Brendan, my first son, who I adore (though I adore all my children) and especially our impromptu conversations about life and art. And my friends, whom I will see soon. But now I want to catch my breathe, muck about, doing little, mull over the summer, and do a little journal writing.

My darling daughter

Friday, July 29, 2005

Once again, I'm leaving on a jet plane (but first an overnight train to Paris and then the Eurostar through the scary chunnel to London), returning to my Canadian home to see my guys and friends. Part of me is singing and part of me is weeping for it's almost time to say goodbye to my daughter and to the south of France. There was not enough time... and I will miss Gill so...

And yet it seems forever since I've seen Rob and Brendan, Helen, Vaughan, and Wenda...

I'm not thinking too clearly, never can when I must tie a thousand ends and pack my bags, so unless inspiration hits in the next twenty-four hours, I'll deal with the practical and not worry about writing (though Shirley and I thought we might find a cafe in Paris and pull out our notebooks. And then there's overnight in London...)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Travelling Companions at the Mediterranean

Travelling Companions at the Mediterranean
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

The first sight of the Mediterranean and we all cheer. Shirley is driving. We head towards Narbonne Plage, miles of sandy beach and Gill and Rowan are more animated than we've seen them. This is what they have been wanting - hot sun, white sand, and dips in this famous sea. (I think I want to dip also but when I wade in later, it feels too cold.) We stop at the tourist office and are told only one hotel has a vacancy. It isn't beautiful but it is cheap and directly across the street is the beach...

Our two beauties go to their room, don their bikinis and are gone to lie in the sand. (Later they tell us the wind is too strong and sand keeps covering them. They move to the rocks.) Shirley and I, hot and sweaty from driving, sit in a restaurant under the hotel and drink a beer - and then fetch water, lots of water, fruit, and croissants for the morning.

Later that evening, the four of us look for a restaurant and decide on one in the middle of town (actually, we let Gill decide), not one along the tourist strip, and eat well, the ambience better than the food, but still the food is more than adequate and the desserts, much to Rowan's glee, are superb.

I, as usual, fall into a deep sleep immediately while Shirley tosses and wakes with each truck, motor cycle, baby screeching in the restaurant below.


The next day we leave and drive to the next town, Gruissan, and again are lucky. We find a hotel, directly across from the beach. (The four of us are in one room but again the price is right and the beach calmer.) Gill and Rowan hit the beach and Shirley and I walk, then sit in the hotel's restaurant and read and write, hoping the other two of our writing group are writing as in Vancouver it's Saturday morning, our meeting time. Too bad we didn't think ahead and tell them and write to a common theme. No matter. We wrote.

Later that evening, we drive into town and found - or rather Gill found - a restaurant on the street called "Entre terre et mer" - and though the wind blew and we were cold, the food was superb, and we felt decadent and blessed.

*** (I think this blog a mite boring, a travelogue.)

The next day, Sunday, was market day in the small town - see picture - and Shirley and I once again sat and wrote and then wandered the streets with Gill and Rowan.

We drove home the slow way via Castres and had a picnic of bread and cheese, apricots and apples in the gardens of the Goya museum and then strolled through the museum. What kind of creeps me out, yet fascinates me are Goya's sketches - a series on human follies and another series on war - grotesque people doing crazy things.


On Monday, Shirley and I went to another town for a literary lunch with Susan who loves good food, aligns it to the pleasure of orgasm, and it was pretty damn good but my memory is failing. What does an orgasm feel like? Afterwards, we sat in Gaillac's large park and talked about our latest writing projects... lots to chew on...


and the next day, Tuesday, today, we went to market in town in the morning and though we intended to sit in the square and write, it was too crazy - too many people to greet, too much noise... but we did manage to steal away before lunch and write again... and all afternoon, in the 38 degree weather, we have been writing and editing, sewing and doing laundry.

Oh yes, thoughts are brewing in this heat but I'm melting. More later...