Friday, July 29, 2005
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
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...
Friday, July 22, 2005
So we wandered through the dark ancient streets, that always make me think of the past. What would it have been like to be here five hundred, eight hundred years ago? I imagine women in long skirts, crisp white blouses worn high on the neck, and men in armor. (A villager told me that there was sometimes two or three families in each room of each house but not, I doubt, in the house of Susan's son Adam where Louis XIV once slept.)
And we passed by Bedding's house and as her window was open, we yelled up, and she joined us at La Vierge, and then Ruth surprised us on her evening stroll and sat with us. While Shirley talked to Bedding, I spoke with Ruth who is always sparkling, always alive. And as we talked, we looked up to the sky, bright with stars and a round full moon. Ruth spoke of men. She says she wants one from Mars. And she described a book she has just finished about extraordinary women who could not live in this world - like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton - and their craziness, their inability to adapt the inner turmoil to the outside. She told me of a young woman who wrote a novel and submitted it to a juried contest, and when she had waited long to hear if they liked her story, she jumped from a building and killed herself. Her father wrote to the jury to withdraw her novel as his daughter was dead. And the man, in charge, curious, read it before returning it and thought it good - the story of a young woman who jumped off a building and died.
So we sat the Vierge and talked about turmoil and art. Ruth spoke of the angst she feels before a performance. She never knows if she will be in the right mood to give her best. (She plays the viola.) We spoke further about our own feelings, our own perception of ourselves, that can differ a great deal from the way others perceive us.
After midnight, we all walked down the hill and up into the village. Ruth and Bedding said goodnight and Shirley and I, feeling good, returned home, poured ourselves a tiny liquor glass of armagnac. It is a curious lovely world here and I am proud of it (though how little it has to do with me) and happy that Shirley can share it with me.
Today, we will drive to the Mediterranean, without hotel reservations or particular village in mind. I love these adventures. Back Sunday.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
Happy Birthday Wenda!
I am racing the clock. There's fifteen minutes left on your birth day to post you a greeting, send love and hopes that this year will be your best one yet.
(Please forgive my forgetfulness. Yesterday I thought your birthday was the 17th and I'd missed it, even though I read your blog. Muddled is me at the moment. And then Shirley did arrive (and the handsome young man with my debit card with her) and told me that no, today is your birthday so we forced ourselves to drink a lot of wine together to celebrate your day.)
Now's there's two plums here, two there... and all we're going to do here is write and write - drink a little more wine, take a trip to the Mediterranean to write - in your honour.
Happy Birthday, dear Wenda. I hope your day was wonderful.
If anyone wants to read some fine writing, visit
"Daring to Write"
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I've been reading Mary Oliver. Jeanette Winterson reminded me that poetry helps when one feels lethargic. I read it when I cannot alight. In an interview at the end of "Lighthousekeeping" Winterson says, when asked if she ever considered writing poetry, " no. Poetry is the thing that matters to me more than anything else. I use it like caffeine: when I'm tired I'll have a shot of poetry. I always carry it with me; I look for that exactness of language, that sensitivity and feeling. But I won't write it because I have decided that my experiment is to use those poetic disciplines and work them against the stretchiness of narrative."
The young women (so hard not to call them girls) - Gill and Rowan and I went to Toulouse yesterday. We shopped a little together, ate lunch, and then they took off to look for clothes. I went to Habitat. When, I wonder, did dressing for the house take precedence over clothes for the body? I bought some Egyptian cotton sheets and plum-coloured towels. Then I sat in a small park and finished "Lighthousekeeping."
Winterson is not one of my favourite authors but I like her. Her stories are off-beat, often difficult to follow, but I always find myself writing out a passage or two. The one that appealed to me yesterday, that I tucked a bookmark into, reads as follows:
"But today, when the sun is everywhere, and everything solid is nothing but its own shadow, I know that the real things in life, the things I remember, the things I turn over in my hands, are not houses, bank accounts, prizes or promotions. What I remember is love - all love - love of this dirt road, this sunrise, a day by the river, the stranger I met in a cafe. Myself, even, which is the hardest thing of all to love, because love and selfishness are not the same thing. It is easy to be selfish. It is hard to love who I am. No wonder I am surprised if you do.
But love it is that wins the day. On this burning road, fenced with barbed wire to keep the goats from straying. I find for a minute what I came here for, which is a sure sign, that I will lose it again instantly.
I felt whole."
I often don't know how to live this extraordinary life of mine but there are times - and I warn you, they are often maudlin but they don't feel so at the time - when someone says "I wish you could stay longer" or "I want to spend time with you" or "I like your energy" or even "I love you" that I feel whole.
So I sit here reading Oliver's "The Black Snake" and worry only a little that I gave the handsome young man my debit card and my code (such trust!) and hope that he doesn't take my last euro cent and disappear without picking up Shirley. I am looking forward to spending time with her.
Friday, July 15, 2005
It's still early. At 9 this morning, I sat in a cafe with a cafe creme (after bathing, brushing my teeth, spraying perfume, putting on my wench top - perhaps the reason for the wenchy thoughts above - and my layered skirt) feeling content, unhurried.
Last night, Gill, Rowan and I went down to Lyn's garden for a barbeque. The folk gathered were my age or older. I feel myself a little out of place in these social gatherings, not sure why, but among the people I met was a man, who looked like a "lost soul", his eyes seemed timid, almost afraid. He told me about his wife, a Parisian, who left him after 35 years of marriage, about his job as a computer programmer, that he was forced to leave the same year (apparently all who were over 58 were given mandatory retirement.) This was three years ago, he told me. That's not long ago, I told him. He said that he is not allowed to work now, that his former company pays him a small wage. How can you bear it, I asked. It's alright. I play tennis three times a week, I paint a little...
After the picnic, I drove to Gaillac to pick up Joe, a friend's son, who (my friend) is one of the most gentle, kindest woman I know, who rescued me more than once when my children were young, whose husband has helped both Rob and me with our business. I haven't spoken to Joe - the same age as my eldest son - for years, so it was strange to be waiting at the train station near midnight, to greet a towering young man, to bring him home, serve him beer, and talk. He is lovely, easy going, and has just taken off with Gill and Rowan to the lake.
Earlier this morning, Rob called from the film set (11:30 p.m. Saturday night his time) and told he that three friends in the film industry had died this week. One was fifty. I remind myself that life is precious.
Two days ago was Bastille Day. Around ten in the evening, Gill, Rowan, and I set off, on foot, for the lake, to watch the fireworks and dance. We walked because I didn't know if we had enough gas in the car to make it home safely. (I can hear Rob laugh. I have a tendency to let our car run low on fuel.) The fireworks began and finished before we arrived though we did see them in the air, and when we arrived the music was blaring and people were dancing and the girls/young women immediately joined them. I sat at a table and watched. I love these country dances where everyone who is mobile (from two to seventy) is swinging hips and arms, tapping feet, singing, squealing to the music. Women dance with women, men with men, and everyone appears joyous.
I did dance a little but it was late and I was tired and I had danced the night before.
The three of us - Rowan, Gill, and I - had driven to Campagnac for an all night market with live music - the same band that had played for the writers in the town square last year. The pizza man (called Denise, with accent on first syllable), father of Harold and Hugo, was singing wonderful French ballads. He is as charming as his sons, as roguishly handsome, and Gill and Rowan and I danced (not on tables) together until the group put away their instruments.
You might have noticed that I have only written about our evenings (except for this morning.) Since Marlene left by a late train for Zurich, and, an evening earlier, Ursula, waving her white handkerchief from the old fashioned train window... I have been doing a lot of thinking, a lot of writing in my journal, not dressing till nearly evening, puttering, sewing drapes... A writing workshop, whether it be body/soul or autobiography always takes me inward, exhausts me, and so I am not pushing myself at the moment to push boundaries, to give away my secrets, here or anywhere. Not at this moment...
Writers in Castelnau de Montmiral
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
A snapshot outside our house, after our last morning session. Unfortunately, you can only catch a glimpse of Ursula's lovely face. Within half an hour, all but four of us will have left the village.
I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice-cream
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
Several hours later, Marlene, Ursula, Gill, Daniela, and I explore Albi and give ourselves a much deserved treat. I love the look on my face.
Ursula and Marlene indulge too.
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
Monday, July 11, 2005
I'm still absorbing this BodySoul writing week so it's difficult to give an overview.
On Friday night we gathered at the "Light" house for our final feast prepared and served by Gill. We began on the terrace that leans over the Esplanade - a stretch of grass, sand path, and trees that runs along one length of the village with a view over the valley, so soft and senuous that it always reminds me of a woman's body - talked, nibbed tiny saucisses, brochetta, and deviled eggs, and sipped some delicious wine - white or rose or red. We are a quieter, more serious group this year but the six of us with Marlene and Ursula and Gill too, though she was not a part of the workshop time, have grown close, are comfortable, easy with one other. How could it be otherwise when one writes one's thoughts and reads them aloud. I don't think anyone apologized for the quality of her writing but some (myself included) had to swallow hard to read where her thoughts had roamed to. One memory from my childhood appeared that I have never told anyone, was particularly difficult to tell but I did. I did.
After the appetizers, Gill called us to a table, set once again with our sunflower gold tablecloth, and served a tomato and mozzarella salad and fresh bread. She told us she was going to give us one dish, one flavour, at a time, French-style, so we could savour each one. Next we feasted on a ratatouille made with the help of Susan in her kitchen. My mouth, throat, thought themselves in heaven. (Writing this I am reminded of Susan's words from many years ago: "The two best things in life are food and sex and people don't talk about or enjoy them enough.") Then a chicken smeared with pesto and feta, the juices soaked up with more bread. Gill then cleared the table and set a caramel mousse cake, topped with tiny berries and miniscule pears - a masterpiece from a French bakery - at one end and cut portions onto plates, added French ice-cream, and each one of us let the riches melt into our mouths. Oh la la. And those, who desired a savoury, finished with cheeses and more bread. Need I mention the wine that accompanied each course?
The meal was followed by poetry - each person read or recited - and music and dancing on the table. This night everyone had her turn to everything from "Dance me to end of Love" to "I'm a Red-neck Woman" (when two especially sassy wenches climbed up and strutted their stuff (not me.)
Saturday morning we had our finale session. How did I feel? Sad. Happy. Grateful. Another ending and I realized that I'd come a little closer to understanding myself... This individuation process, a la Carl Jung and Marion Woodman, is too slow for me at times. I want all now, get impatient, don't want to deal with the fear, sometimes feel ridiculous, but I know, especially when I look at Marlene and Ursula, that this is the direction I want to take. A line from Mary Oliver comes to mind, that goes something to the effect that when I die, I don't want simply to have visited this world.
I want to say that this intensive was unlike any other that I have participated in, that I spent too many sleepless nights, and explain, but I cannot. What happens inside an intensive is confidential... Marlene and Ursula were more than wonderful in their teaching and listening, and more than generous with their time. Me too. As onsite administrator, I did everything I possibly could, to make sure every woman felt at home in my tiny, lovely village.
I must end here and try to be more religious about writing this journal, in the few weeks that follow before I return home.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Ten women sat around the table (one had to cancel due to a leg injury) that Gill had set with our fine French damask tablecloth in sunflower gold (with sunflowers and daisies in vases), and cloth napkins folded like lotuses, eating, drinking wine (though water seemed the preferred libation) and talking, followed by a welcome from Marlene with course details and a few words from Ursula. I talked briefly about the town and day-to-day details.
And so we begin our second year of body/soul, our third year in France. Though the last few days have been hectic with pickups in Gaillac not happening as smoothly as former years due to late flights and missed trains, and minor house problems, I think all is in order now and I can breathe easy. Gill, who spends most of time in the kitchen, is surprised at how long it takes to make, serve, and cleanup after a meal - though she is doing an extraordinary job - her presentation tres chic. (Susan said when I arrived that my daughter is a much better cook than me. "And so is your husband." I love it when she is so blunt. (And now I have every excuse to stay out of the kitchen.)
Friday, July 01, 2005
A Poet is Born
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
Happy Birthday Vaughan,
Hope your day is wonderful. Do something just for yourself. Do something out of character. I'm thinking about you. Here's a poem by James Tipton:
THE DAY I WAS BORN WAS THE DAY
I began to fall in love with everything,
and particularly with the light,
with how it waved to me at dusk,
with how it rose after a summer rain
into the heart of that little [girl].
with how it curled deep
in the centers of flowers,
how it lived in little jars of honey.
I remember the day in the abandoned orchard
when the Angel of Light stood beside me;
and I remember the wild and lovely light
that wrapped itself around certain women,
so bright I could no longer see them;
I remember the light that lurked in language,
and I remember how much I loved words,
wanting to know them well before I spoke,
although I did not speak until I was three years old.
I remember how painful it has always been
to appear to be like others, how hard
I have had to work to dance in that world;
and I remember how much I loved
to be alone, and I remember
new leaves in late spring,
and corn smiling, and bees,
and the little creek I carried home
and tucked in bed beside me.
Even now, I find a few certain strangers
who come to me with light lingering
around them before they speak;
and when I leave them I remember that light,
and sometimes a piece of conversation,
with you, for example, about Costa Rica, and Peru,
and Spanish learned outside of schools.
I had to stop talking with you then,
or I would have given you everything I have.