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.