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