Sunday, May 29, 2005

I am in Germany with Kate, John, and wee Brian. It's after midnight and the sweat is running down my forehead and back of my neck. The heat makes it impossible to sleep though I think I have not yet absorbed the nine hour time difference. I am also a little stunned. It's difficult to jump from one world to another, difficult to be crazy-busy and then not at all.

I can't pronounce, let alone spell the places I've been. On Friday, Kate, Brian, and I wandered in the heat through a nearby town's park with a huge wedding tower, through a rose garden with few roses but with a lily pond, loaded with tadpoles and a few perched frogs that captured Brian's attention. We sat, under a shelter of trees, drank coffee, and talked, moved on to a Asian restaurant for lunch, and back to Kate's apartment in Langen for salads and more conversation. (Funny thing with Kate - we meet every year or two - and it's as if no time as gone by.) Last night also I couldn't sleep and so began (and finished today) an easy novel, feeling only a little guilty that the dozen research books in my suitcase are still packed away. Why do I always feel that I must be doing something productive, intelligent or I am lazy, useless?

I'm allowing myself a break. Today, we spent the afternoon at a thermal bath (I'm not sure what you call them) that appears to me like a spa for the rich and famous -well, the King of Siam used to visit them - and inspired the Asian architecture. Inside and out, there are numerous pools, waterfalls and jets that massage the back, currents that carry the body along passages (good for the muscles, says Kate), lounge chairs, and small cafes. Upstairs there are special baths that must be enjoyed in the nude and although I was curious and intended to wander up, our time was up before I had the chance (next visit.)

In the evening, Kate prepared a cool cucumber soup, laid out cold meats, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and German potato salad - bought in my honour, while Brian played at our feet with his wooden tracks and trains... more interested in his toys than the food, though Kate tried every once in a while to pop something healthy into his mouth, reminding me of the time when my three were young. I have forgotten how time-consuming and draining these years are... and Kate is a little crazy. She thinks she's not working hard enough - has two Globe columns due - says she needs a nice chunk of time when she knows that Brian will not climb up the shelves and pull the television down on himself... and has put her life on hold to spend time with me - this evening she handed me a German guide book and told me to read, to plan where we shall go tomorrow, Sunday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Practical Romantic

The Practical Romantic
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

I'm leaving on a jet plane... tomorrow evening. At 10:30 a.m. the next morning (Vancouver time) I'll be landing in Frankfurt to spend a few days with Kate and family. Sunday night, I will be in Castelnau with Gill.

I'm flying high already and hope I can function well enough today to get through my list of last-minute chores.

I've already been down at the water's edge this morning, listening to the water splash onto shore, watching a crow pecking in the sand, drinking hot coffee, and wondering why I don't spend more time here, breathing in the beauty.

Am I becoming maudlin as I prepare to leave? Perhaps. There are other signs. I am more tender towards Rob. I will miss our 35th anniversay on June 13th... and towards Brendan. He is so smart, so wise, in so many ways. I linger on the thought that he would love the intellectual stimulation of university. But how dare I presume that I know more than he does about what he wants from life?

And yet... yesterday Helen and I spoke of a parent who insisted on a post-secondary education for her child/adult, who directs - at any sign of indecision - her child's future. And we wondered if we were wrong leaving it up to our children to find their own way... and yet in the same breath, knowing ourselves limited and not clairvoyant. And besides, some pretty extraordinary people never went to university... I remember Kate asking me if I ever tell anyone what to do... and I don't - though there are occasions when I'd like to - because who am I? This reminds me of Kundera who wrote in one of his novels that the problem with life is that one doesn't know how to live it until one has done it once.

Speaking of writing, in France, I shall attempt to finish my play on Teresa. I have already sent a package of books to Castelnau and last night, when I filled one small suitcase with the remainder plus an exceeding large biography of Anais Nin (from Vaughan), I see I must cart a larger suitcase. I like traveling light but I need these volumes to think and work. Sometimes I think that all I am is a collection of others' words...

Note the picture of the old married couple. I'm holding Kate's online book "The Practical Romantic" about internet dating and well worth a read at a price that Kate fought to get - under seven dollars Canadian. The Practical Romantic"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A week today I will be flying towards Europe. I love this continent more than any other. The idea that you can hop a train and within hours be in another world with its own language and customs, art and architecture, excites me.

Although last night I sat and made a long list of all the things I must do before I leave, I am feeling lighter than I have for weeks. On Monday - in lieu of Saturday - the Plums met at The Grind and did a ten-minute exercise on the subject "kitchen sink". I became downright silly.

My slightly edited version:

Four drupaceous plums sit in a colander in the kitchen sink, nudging each other, discussing who will be the first to leave and how each wishes to be taken.

"Eat me on the fridge," whispers W, "for old times sake."

"Anywhere in the kitchen," squeals V. "I've always wanted to be consumed in the kitchen."

"Wrap me in tissue and ship me to England," says S. "I would like to be devoured on that fair isle."

Only Y is silent. Her mind is tumbling, thinking that just when she had decided to hang onto the vine forever, she was picked, and now must submit to whatever torture/ecstasy whoever wishes to dish out. She is reluctant to let strange hands hold her, squeeze her, suck the juice out of her.

In the end, she is left to rot in the kitchen sink.

Now where did that come from? The problem with writing, no matter how innocent the subject is, the writer always reveals something about her or him self - sometimes what she or he would prefer not to tell.

Brendan and I had an interesting discussion, in the kitchen of all places, last night. We were speaking of art, architecture, writing, any creative field that grows out of the personal aesthetic and experience. We agreed that the true artist, in the end, must be willing to let go of personal attachment to parts of her or his project, for the sake of the whole, for the sake of art.

"If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the riverbed
with its five fingers spread"

(Delta by Adrienne Rich)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sigh. I'm back with aching back - a sign that I have been carrying too heavy a load. Yet after talking to Kathy, Rob's sister, last week (is it only a week?) who said "Oh Yvonne, you've been running, been in angst, for as long as I've known you" - some 36 years - and Rob agreed - "You'd leave school at lunchtime to wash your hair" - I felt a wave of despair: Have I been madly running all my life? "Disillusion me with truth," Teresa would say. "Accept that you'll always be this way," said Kath.

Perhaps, I have to take a quarter-turn, a la Helen Luke, and view myself in a different light. I have too many diverse interests, take on anything that twigs my curiosity, and yet there are moments that I feel full to bursting - amid my angst. I don't want to end up, as Mary Oliver says, having only visited this world. (Sometimes I feel my head is full of other voices who clarify my thoughts.)

Last night, I went out with Walter (who told me that I am an amazing woman and though I denied it, how I loved the praise) to see "Arts Umbrella" graduates dance - the willowy daughter of a friend was performing. I was expecting an amateurish evening but every dance was professional, perfect, magical. (I'd forgotten how much I love to see live dance. Leslie and I used to buy season's tickets.) The dances performed have such names as "me, myself, I", "She no longer dreamt she was flying", "What can I Tell my Bones" (based on a poem by Theodore Rothke - "Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.")

And so I leaned back in my seat, not running, not anxious, and admired the beautiful young bodies of this dance company moving in unison or not, depending on the music and choreography. When I push myself to attend some dance, theatre, music event, or visit an art gallery - and I don't want to sound posh, baby finger poised just so on a teacup - I feel calm while at the same time excited about this world. I caught my reflection after, in The Bay window, as I waited for a bus (Walter had to pick up his son from the ferry terminal) and I felt so good, I wanted to dance and sing, though I did contain myself or I would have been thought mad, mad, mad. Oh if I had only been brave. (Yes, I am getting a little carried away here but what the hell - my load has lightened and I'm leaving for France in less than two weeks.) I think of Teresa again saying something to the effect - What matters the opinion of others. Opinions are transitory, change with the slightest provocation. It is not within our power to control the opinions of others.

I see it is almost nine and I must shower and dress for work. I am to sell clothes today and tomorrow. It used to embarrass me working on the floor. I thought mself too good for such menial work - my mother's daughter's attitude. But I find myself these days, loving the play, loving the conversations with strangers, and loving the pay (as inadequate as it appears to some.) I also think it makes me a better buyer hearing what women want clothes to do for their bodies.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I have just read “Gill's notes on Paris” and want to be there... and though on the 25th of this month, I will be flying over the city, to have a few days with my friend Kate in Frankfurt, I now know I must stop there, if only for a few days, before I return home at the beginning of August.

I have been at the store too many hours (yesterday, I went in at 6:30 a.m.) but summer clothes are arriving all at once and I am having difficulty finding space for them - and people are buying like crazy - so I'm arranging and rearranging and helping the staff price... and I'm all over the place as I am also trying to complete the orders for fall...

I have hardly been home and I have house guests - Kathy, who I rarely see as as she is helping Sarah, her daughter, and Rene (and his family) prepare for a grand engagement party this evening. And last night, my nephew Thomas (Kath's oldest son) arrived with his beautiful two-year-old Isabella who is sweet and chatty and passionate about books. I rarely see Rob's side of the family and I am enjoying having them though the minutes we've spent together are rare - we pass each other in the kitchen (that has little food) and catch a few words before one or the other of us are going through the front door.

And I have had word from UBC that the Body/Soul workshop is a go and my head is already thinking of what I must do in preparation...

So I am busy and admit, a little anxious, but soon France...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Kate has reminded me that I have not posted a blog in a week. How can that be? What have I been doing? Time escapes me as I research and write about Teresa. My friend, who requested the play leaves for Spain on Wednesday and wants to take a substantial part of the script with her so I felt some pressure to push ahead even though I don't like working like this - writing when the reading is not completed... and I am a tediously slow writer... and I want to break up the monologue with poetry - and finding an appropriate poem to fit with a scene is time consuming - though, I admit, fun - I read many of my poetry books from cover to cover.

I did escape to Whistler for several days - not long enough - but still it was wonderful. I took my computer and printer, spread my notes and books all over the dining and living room, and worked uninterrupted for one afternoon, one full day and evening, and the next morning. (I bet you're envious, Kate.) Once I was there, I wanted to stay longer but the mundane called - I had to return for the cable and carpet cleaner and to work at the store - but the time there was such a luxury (given Bev's fancy house) and profitable as far as quality and quantity of writing goes. Vaughan suggested that I do it on a regular basis. Good idea. Why is it so difficult to leave the everyday when the rewards are so great? I need Teresa's discipline.

I met with Sal last night and she read my words while I listened and made notes. How strange to have another voice that doesn't have my rhythm read what I have written - but it was good to hear and I immediately edited a line here and there and have a clearer idea on how to write for the stage. And I was more than happy to hear that she is pleased with my approach - more pleased than I am.

So, I'm more than half way through with the play and can take a rest. Today, I attack the store orders and finish cleaning the house as Rob's sister, Kathy, arrives at midnight and will stay with us for the rest of the week. I smiled at myself yesterday as I worked on Teresa and took breaks to mop the floors. I am my mother when expecting a guest - only then would she alight and clean the house from top to bottom. She didn't want people to think poorly of her. And though I think this is rather foolish - people think what they think - and I like people who don't keep neat houses - shows they have more important things to do - I do like my house clean - especially since I clean so infrequently. Would I appreciate sparkling surfaces as much if they were always so? I doubt it.

Now I must get down to work.