Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas Card

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Over the past few days, beyond enjoying my daughter's company and doing odds and ends for Christmas, I have not forgotten to drop off food in a food bank and money in Salvation Army clear bowls to the tune of ringing bells every day. Today I will go to Save-On Foods and buy some diapers and formula for Basics-for-Babies.

I would not have been so charitable if it weren't for my friend Kate. Please read
Kate's website in which she challenged a large number of friends to write about their favourite charities. After reading their blogs, Kate herself contributed to many of the charities (and Kate is far from wealthy.) Personally I feel humbled by the writing and generosity of my friend and her other friends - a number of whom I know are younger than me. On another level, I feel happy, pleased, even excited that the generations below mine are more aware and caring and giving to those less fortunate all around the world. What happened to my generation? We speak of the world's atrocities but we do little to help. I'm sorry. I should speak personally. I have no idea what friends my age do and do not do. Again, please read Kate's website

My Aunt Alice and cousins in South Africa
My South African Relatives

Last January, my Aunt Alice, my father's eldest sister turned 93. She died yesterday morning. I am sorry that I didn't go to South Africa to meet this feisty woman who I know had, at least, three husbands and who moved to South Africa from Northern Ireland when she was a young woman. She was the last female in my father's nuclear family and I so wanted to speak to her about her mother, my grandmother who died soon after my birth and who, I am told, I look very much like.

Dancing with my Dad

Dancing with Dad

Today is my father's 85th birthday. Happy Birthday dear Dad. I love you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gill Arrives Tomorrow

I haven't been thinking a lot about Christmas though our house is in a flurry. Rob and I have done the first weed down - sorting and tossing with trips to the Salvation Army and the paper recycling depot. It'll probably take three or four or more sorting- throughs before we're ready to leave this old house. (This could take months, even years depending on the housing market.)

I did meet up with my plum group on Sunday through one was missing (sadly.) It would have been good to have been all together. Both W and S looked wonderful. And we ate and laughed and read...

I haven't felt a lot like writing lately. Too much is going on and I've pushed myself to complete a lot of work so that when Gill arrives, we can have some fun together.

The Next Day

I stopped writing at this point because Helen dropped in with a bottle of sparkling red wine. It tasted like Welch's grape juice. Delicious. Too easy to drink and so my writing got left once more. I notice that other bloggers aren't writing much these days - perhaps it is the season to sit and laugh and drink with good friends.

Gill arrives in hours and I have a lot to do before we head for the airport.

One things that I've been thinking about is Christmas giving. Kate sent me and others an email about this subject. In it, she said:

On your own blog, write a new post about your favorite charity, social cause or helpful organization. While I may have a bias toward causes that address maternal health and children’s well-being, I do believe that all people on this planet have the right to freedom, food, shelter, safety and health care. Domestic, international, global and local interests are equally important. Tell me, and our readers, why you believe your special organizations are helping to make the world a better place. Tell us why you support them and why we should too.

This message has been haunting me. Kate has the biggest heart of anyone I know. Unlike me, she thinks on a grand scale. She worries about the world - writes about it and pushes others to do something too. I feel an embarrassment as a friend. I heard a show once that said that everyone - no matter their income - should allocate a percentage of their money to charity. I thought "yes" that is what I should do. But I have not gone about it in an organized way. I give when anyone knocks at my door though I don't like these door-to-door invasions. I give a lot of good stuff to Salvation Army because I believe that they make the world a better place. I give to Gospel Mission every Christmas because I believe that all should have a good meal on Christmas day (though as I write this, I think should they not have good food every day?)

Because of Kate, I will try to be more generous. Every day till Christmas, I will do something for strangers - I will give to the food bank and the basics-for-babies drive - and I will look around for other worthy places. If you read this, would you do something too? I will record what I do so I do it.

I'll be back here before Christmas. I promise.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


since I wrote a thoughtful blog entry. So much has been happening in the past few weeks - since Rob's return - that my mind swims. Rob came home with video cuts of the renovation happening in our French home. We both think it will be the most beautiful house in the village, especially when the roof is opened up and we can sit on top of the world and sip wine, break bread, and devour cheese under the stars. Oh la la.

While he was living in the village, he kept thinking about living there full time. "Can I do this," he wondered as he wandered the streets, drove to Toulouse, studied French with a native speaker. Towards the end of his stay, he realized that he could and wanted to be there all the time as soon as is humanly possible. He is tired of the long hours in the film business. He is tired of the money it costs to live in Vancouver. He spoke to some neighbours who retired there three years ago. The most extraordinary thing has happened to them. The man and woman have grown younger, more easy going, happier in their adopted country. Rob wants to feel this way too. He doesn't want to wait until he is too old, less spry, unmotivated.

How do I feel about this? I am always happier in France. When I go there - especially when I am driving through the countryside, admiring fields of sunflowers and grape vines - I sigh with relief. I breathe easier. I love the open markets, the small wineries, the friendliness of the people. I love the friends that I have made, the long evenings with them moaning and groaning with pleasure over the taste of the produce, the cheese, the meat while listening to one friend or another play his cello
and her violin. I love lying in bed and listening to voices speaking French on the street. I yearn to learn the language well. I love the challenge of being there, forcing myself to be more aggressive to get what I want.

On Monday of this week, Rob and I went to see a financial planner. She thought it amusing albeit wonderful that we want to retire at our ages and skip the country. She thought it especially wonderful and rare that we, as a couple, share the same dream. We left all our money papers in her hands and will return next week for her verdict. We are back-paddling a little. There is no work most likely for Rob until May and he is the one who makes the big bucks. I shall try to find work here and there. I just received a cheque for $300 for some design work I did. I am proud of this. But it won't go far. I have to become more aggressive in the making money field.

Rob and I have been looking around us and thinking about what we want to take and what we can live without when we leave the country. More importantly, we have been assessing what we have of value that we can let go of that will provide funds for the next few months - especially since we will borrowing around 70 grand to pay for our renovations in France. Our most valuable art is native prints by Bill Reid and Robert Davidson - two of the best Haida artists on the West Coast. We have put these prints up for sale on Craigs list as a beginning, as a trial. There have been a few requests for information but no buyers yet (though it has only been two days.)

We have also started a major rampage through the house, throwing away stuff that has gathered over the last 24 years since we moved in with two small children. Add another child and a lot of art work and our house is full. I discovered that I have kept every birthday card all three ever received, every baby tooth, every report and progress report, every award, every activity achieved - like swimming classes, guides and cubs, and on and on... I have asked my children to think hard on what they would like. We can no longer be custodians of their memories. (And yet I will keep a little, a tiny bit of memorabilia because it is difficult to part with... )

I have begun to realize that I/we must become creative about selling our stuff if we want a fair price. (A gallery owner offered me half price or a 60/40 split if he sold one of our Reids in his gallery on consignment. First of all, we will try to find a way to sell ourselves.)

I know a lot has to do with getting the word out. And though I don't consider my blog site, a commercial venue, I am going to create a section at the bottom of my blog, naming names and items that we want to sell in hopes that Google will pick up names such as BILL REID and ROBERT DAVIDSON and lead someone who would like their art to me. So if you don't think such an idea creative and call it something crass and unsavoury, please stop reading at the end of this paragraph. What shall I call it? Letting go of valuables? Looking for a buyer? Stuff for sale? Soft sell? I think I'll use the last unless you, my friends, can think of a better name. And if anyone has a better idea of how we can sell this stuff, please let me know.

Only one final happening. We have spoken to real estate agents and we will probably put our house up for sale in the spring. It's our only pension plan and we must catch the market when it's hot.

SOFT SELL - all on Craigs List

1. Three custom-made pine shelves - especially created to hold DVDs and VHSs
2. A number of antique microphones
3. A crew jacket and video from the movie "The Fly".
4. A selection of Native Indian art (see pictures below.)

Bill Reid

Robert Davidson

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's Snowing in Vancouver

According to Rob, this is going to be a cold cold winter. Yesterday, it snowed and I love the look. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Vancouver Snow

I have so much to tell that I'm tongue-tied. Think I'll leave for it another day but I would like to wish my niece Ayah Young a happy birthday. She's an extraordinarily talented young woman. See for yourself at: Ayah's blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I see that it is a month to Christmas and though I don't believe in rushing around and spending time and money on stuff that my family and friends may or may not appreciate, I am dreaming of ways to express my love. I did write a story once on gift-giving that I may publish later this week.

On Thursday evening, Rob returned from France. As he came through the customs doors, I nearly didn't recognize him. His hair was longer and darker than I remember. He looked younger, happier, more spry. These separations (he's been gone for nearly two months) work well for us. I miss him certainly but I have time to think of him as other (in D. H. Lawrence terms) and I like this other. I have time to think about me, not in relation to other.

Rob loves living in France as much as I do. He is excited about the renovation and has brought short videos back, showing walls removed, chimneys gone, cheap fixtures no longer standing uglifying our beautiful 13th century home. Though he is frustrated with his French, he can see retiring (as soon as possible) to this lush land.

On Friday, I went with my sister - the one whose husband locked her out - to see her divorce lawyer. She warned me that the lawyer is a force to be reckoned with - and wished she didn't have to. (Again I cannot speak openly about what transpired in a public forum but I did learn a lot about divorce.)

It makes me angry. You have two people who once upon a time - and in my sister's case, not so long ago, swore to love each other forever. They find that they cannot do this and so agree to part. I think it should be easy. The wife says "I brought this into relationship so I shall take it away." The husband says the same. There is a pile of stuff that they bought together. The stuff that one doesn't care about is easy to divide. The stuff that they both want? Well perhaps they should flip a coin. Or take turns... When they finally part, the ideal would be that they remain friends. Or at least send Christmas cards.

When one hires a lawyer, the other is forced to hire a lawyer. And what follows is all about money. The personal, the mementoes - even if they are from one's former life - will have to be fought for and the battle will cost. If you move out or are locked out, and you want your stuff - even your favourite toothbrush - you have to have to ask your lawyer to contact his lawyer and the paperwork costs money... and on and on it goes.

My sister's lawyer is tough. She doesn't care about the personal - or doesn't seem to. She said "you married him and you have to pay the price." She has sat through hundreds, maybe thousands of courtroom dramas and knows that the best woman doesn't always win. How much do you have? What are the joint assets worth? The legal battle could eat up anything you stand to win. Do you want to give up something you want to minimize the time spent agonizing and save some money? All this creates pain and suffering and anger - lots of anger.

My sister is angry. She feels a fool. She should have known better than to marry the guy. I try to reassure her. A lot of smart women do stupid things for love and lust. I mention Pam Houston's book "Cowboys are my Weakness." At a speaking event after the book was released, one angry feminist spoke up and asked why she had strong women succumb to the charms of weak men."Do you think this happens often?" she asked (or something to that effect.) Houston said the question didn't deserve a reply.

Everyone of us has made ourselves vulnerable at one time or another. Why are we so hard on ourselves? We are all human. (I tend to say the obvious at times... and it's easy to speak up and see clearly when one isn't the one who has been wounded.)

Most of the time, I stay at home. I'm in design mode... and getting used to having my guy around. And have lots of secret projects, including my novel, to keep me busy over the next month. And my daughter will return on the 20th of December and I'm smiling already... so there is much that is good and happy happening - even for my sister who was locked out of her house - but that's another story. I continue to learn what is possible in this wild and crazy world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


It's my sister's birthday today and I love her. She's had a rough time lately and needs to know she is loved. She wants to hear the words. She wants an ear that listens to her. She wants company for the fun times. She wants company for the sad times. And she wants a birthday party. So I'm giving one. I've made manicotti (even the pasta.) I have baked and decorated a cake (insert.) I'm making Italian meatballs. I've made a birthday card. And I'm going a little crazy because I want all perfect. I still have to vacuum, clean bathrooms, iron a tablecloth before the guests arrive at three. And yes, I mustn't forget to shower and dress. And blow up balloons. I wish Rob were here but he's home this Thursday.


Maggie's Birthday

Flowers from my Baby

Flowers from my Baby

Gilly sent me a beautiful poinsetta with a loving card this week - a thank you from her because I checked a couple of essays for her and made suggestions. And this woman of mine knows that editing takes time. It's good to be appreciated. And wonderful, to be loved as she loves me.

I find it difficult to use the word "love" on this blog. I prefer to show not tell (and perhaps I've done that too) but for some strange reason I'm consumed with love these days. I'll speak more on this when I have time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


A Northern Irish Friend's Birthday

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I try and I try and I try... I descended into November with a mysterious pain in my foot that sent me to my doctor who sent me to a specialist. Both are mystified. There is no bruising, no swelling. Now my leg hurts. I went for x-rays this morning. I stopped in and saw my doctor. Perhaps the sore foot put pressure on the leg muscles, she guesses. "We'll know more once we see the x-ray results." This could take another three or four days.

Because my leg aches when I walk, I'm not walking much. On the happy end of the spectrum, this means I've been laying low, writing and teaching myself web design.

Living alone in a house that's just under 2000 sq ft that worked well for raising three children that is luxurious when two of us are present, now feels superfluous. And another mystery - though I can work wherever I want without interruption, I still prefer my little house in the garden (though I have not been hobbling down there.)I feel safe there, freer - the internal censors don't visit as often.

Meanwhile over the ocean, Rob has been attempting to live in our 800 year old house without central heating. He said one day the ground level was 1 degree so he sits by the wood burning stove and plugs in an electric heater on the first floor and writes his novel and prepares for the grand renovation that has been delayed one week. Yesterday a friend who left for Zurich lent him her oil-heated house. At last he is comfortable.


I went out to dinner last night with two sisters and one sister's sister-in-law who feels like a fifth sister - in a small, very small Italian restaurant - sparsely decorated, few pictures, stark lighting, food verging on excellent but not quite, expensive by my standards. We sat talking about dancing as we had just finished our 6 week Salsa instruction and had had so much fun, we though we might as well broaden our horizons further and learn another style. We decided giggling (oh yes, such a silly word to use for grown women but that's what we were doing) that we would attempt pole dancing next.

And then we spoke of names. Disaster. One sister has changed her name from Donna to Maggie. We sometimes call her Madonna but all of us are forever slipping and calling her by her old name. The thing is that we all thought - though she has denied it a hundred times - that it was the man who locked her out of her home who was responsible for "Maggie". I should note that her middle name is Margaret. She was named after our maternal grandmother. I am called by my middle name. Why not her? Maggie explained yet another time that she loves her grandmother's name. She hates her original name. It is too plain, too ordinary. (I disagree. I like the name Donna but I don't own it.) It is her desire to be called "Maggie." How many times does she have to tell us? She'll accept Donna but she doesn't like it. My other blood sister explained why she assumed it was the man who changed her name. Maggie, in a rage of frustration, stood and said "Why can't you call me by the name I want to be called? I'm leaving."

My heart went out to her. I stood and wrapped my arms around her. "You've got through to us," I told her. "Finally, I understand. Let's step outside for a minute."

We talked outside. Maggie is really really upset. She doesn't understand why it is so difficult for those she loves to listen to her. I said that it is always the hardest with family. I have known her from birth. I see her as my baby sister, an annoying teenager and all the women she has grown into since her beginning. When someone says "Donna" I think of her. But I see here that it doesn't matter what I think. "That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet."

The waiter came out and told us that our dinner were on the table. We went inside and ate. But the emotion had taken all of Maggie's energy. And her baby sister, sitting beside her, was also in tears as she knew she had upset Maggie.

I have hope. I think that last night was a turning point. I know that I will try harder to call her Maggie. I think our baby sister will try harder too.

As I tell this story, I keep thinking of Saint Teresa who when she was among a close circle of friends would say "disillusion me with truth." Why am I thinking this? We all hold our own vision or idea of who we are in our head and hearts. Sometimes that image is disturbed. We have to be prepared to reassemble. I think for all my family, the way the new name was introduced made us obstinate. We have been unkind. And we are especially unkind right now as Maggie is vulnerable. No, we would not intentionally hurt her but we have.


I must add a footnote to this story. Maggie just called and said that one gift that the man who locked her out of house gave her - and he did give her some fine gifts - was the courage to change her name.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I am singing the blues. Last week I was down in the dumps and this week isn't much better. I am grumpy. I'm not the best company. And my easy smile is not appearing often.

And last week, when I least felt like talking, I had a Dialogue meeting. At my house. I thought myself "the bitch from hell." Nah, that's too strong. I saw myself as contrary. I didn't know what was a reaction to what was being said or what was coming from my own despondency.

I feel quite alone and so yesterday I hit a psychology book. Not literally. (I'm always curious when I'm not in control of my emotions.) At present, I am reading James Hillman's "The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling." I am drawn to what he says about loneliness. He says it comes without bidding whether one is literally alone or not. He suggests that there is an archetypal sense of loneliness that is with us from our beginning. And it isn't necessarily negative.

"When we look - or, rather, feel - closely into the sense of loneliness we find it is composed of several elements: nostalgia, sadness, silence, and a yearning imagination for "something else" not here, not now. For these elements and images to show, we first have to focus on them rather than on remedies for being literary alone. Desperation grows worse when we seek ways out of despair."

I like the "yearning imagination" part. I like the idea of focusing because when I concentrate, I become curious and curiosity brings forth energy - the energy to direct one's thoughts into examining the elements of loneliness or whatever.

Am I making any sense?

No matter. I'm doing all right.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I crash and once again feel like a child - lost about how to approach others and the world. And the child in me wants to scream with rage. I have worked so hard to grow up. I don't want to feel helpless. Why can't I be dignified and full of grace? I hate the part of me that runs and hides because she feels small and inferior. She embarrasses me.

In my mind's eye, I see this big finger pointing at me saying you have so many riches. You have never had anything truly horrible happen to you. How dare you feel helpless and hopeless?

I need a poem. (Winterson wrote in an interview that poetry is like coffee to her.)

When I write that I feel low, I don't want scorn or sympathy or advice. I don't want anything. I just want to tell the truth about my life. And it pisses me off, this need to speak, to expose myself. Why can't I be like others? Full of grace and dignity. I don't know. There is something in me that feels compelled to tell. And though I hate her, I comply. This is who I am.

It's rainy here. It feels as if it's been raining for days. Although I know that the rain is responsible for the green beauty of this place, still it depresses me, makes me feel sluggish, lifeless.

This week passed quickly. On Wednesday Gill celebrated her 21st birthday and I spent a lot of time and love trying to make it special for her. (She had a wonderful day. Loved her birthday blog.)

On Friday, I went to see Hollis speak about "What makes good people do bad things." I like Hollis. He's a good speaker and though he uses big words and a lot of Jungian terminology, he gives easy accessible examples to make his point about shadow - that which makes good people do bad things or that which takes a person out of their comfort zone and can unravel them and push them to extremes (though he said that he had two men who declared that they had no shadow.) Everyone has a shadow.

Shadow is the part of us that makes our ego uncomfortable, the part of us that we don't like. It's the part that has never adapted to the culture of nice. There are personal shadows and collective shadows. (He gave as an example of the collective -
"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.")

I wrote down a number of his ideas that appealed to me. "Who says what is good? The collective usually." "When we violate the self. There is real suffering." "When you come to a place when everything you can do is wrong, then you're usually at another step in the individuation process." "The presence of conflict is the proof of the rightness of your journey." "Accept the fact that you're acceptable and that you're unacceptable." When depressed, you can ask "where's the unlived life? what am I trying to push down?" "Depression is a learned helplessness." "Addiction is a system to stop us from feeling what we're feeling."

Hollis explained that shadow is good or rather rich and we should pay attention when caught by shadow. It shows us what we want to distance ourselves from or "overthrow" our adaptive personality (in contrast to our reactive personality.) By ignoring shadow, we are perpetuating a false self. "Sometimes we murder our selves."

Heady stuff.

On Saturday and Sunday, I attended a autobiography workshop at Marlene's. She has a gift for teaching and listening. She also has a knack for gathering groups of women (most often they are women) who are intelligent, thoughtful, caring, and who want to write either professionally or for themselves and/or their families. The two days passed quickly - full of poetry, quotes, discussions, writing and reading (and I should not forget eating - such tasty morsels of Terra breads, Seigel bagels, salmon and egg salads, raw vegies, French cheeses, fruit, and apple and chocolate cake.) There were light moments and heavy moments. Some of the writing stunned me. I am always always shocked at what some women have gone through and lived to tell the tale. With dignity and grace.

As I sit here trying to describe something that is too sensitive for words, too private to speak about openly - for it is unacceptable to tell others' stories when told in such an environment - I am reminded of a passage in Nancy Mair's book "Voice Lessons". She was attending a workshop at Skimmilk Farm where all was permissible. "At the Farm, the women simply listened to my essays very hard and laughed in all the right places... And really, what more can we - as writers, as artists, as human beings - do for one another?"

A little further down, Mairs says: "I want to give her the courage to say the next hard thing, without fear of ridicule or expulsion if she strays across the borders of good taste, good sense, or good judgment demarcated by a tradition she has had no part in forming. I want her to do the same for me."

I left the weekend feeling heavy hearted. I can admire everyone but myself. And I don't really understand this. I never feel as if I give enough. And this makes me feel miserly and miserable. And then I blurt out at the end that I feel a failure. And then I verbally lambast myself for feeling self pity. I hate feeling self pity. And so the vicious cycle begins. Something strikes a chord here. I return to my Hollis notes. I read "forgiveness of self. compassion for self. therapy attends to the disillusionment of stage that you're at. a developmental stage. what wants to come into being wants the death of ego."

I want the death of ego. I want to write.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

HAPPY 21 DEAREST GILL - I hope you have a wonderful day.

Here's a number of birthday messages from family and friends (arranged in alphabetical order.) As you will see, I've shamelessly copied you.

My Baby Girl



Auntie Bev
















Sunday, October 14, 2007

Here's to the Man I Married

Birthday Man

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thanks Giving

I've been playing on the internet reading about Thanksgiving. I'd like to give thanks for all I have - like the freedom to do as I please, the roof over my head (that can be sold for a bundle) and plenty to eat (a big fat turkey is in the oven) and family and friends who I love and love me. What more could anyone ask for? (Well a muse would be nice.)


I started writing yesterday, at Whistler, while the turkey was in the oven. Now it's been eaten with a generous helping of mashed potatoes, sweet squash and apple casserole, brussel sprouts, cranberries, pumpkin pie and several goblets of very good wine.

A naked little boy just came running by the table. My sister's youngest does not like clothes. His father is keeping him company - not in his nakedness but in an attempt to keep him quiet so my sister can sleep. Hannah (middle child) is now up and wants pumpkin pie for breakfast. When I look questioningly at her father, he gives me the nod "there's no rules here." The eldest child starts playing his school recorder. The nudest wants it and starts screaming. I'd forgotten the days of young children and the energy they take.

Where are my children? I think Gill and Michael are getting together with their loves for a thanksgiving lunch. And Brendan - he was celebrating a friend's birthday yesterday and couldn't join us. I miss them all at holiday times - though given the noise level here I'm glad they're grown and have their own lives.

I loved Kate's last entry where she says that she thought by the age of 35 some things in life would go smoothly. "Nope." I doubt anything can run smoothly with young children underfoot. But come to think of it, even without children at home, there are always challenges - both internal and external. (Just when I think that I have all under control, something happens to disrupt my peace.)

Today Rob and I may take a walk - if it ever stops raining (a drizzle would be alright) - through the forest to Whistler Village with its ritzy shops, cafes and restaurants. Later, we will probably head back home as Rob leaves Friday for France and there's much to do.

I'm not feeling very inspired about writing today. Could be that I am one of those writers who has to be alone. (Although I have slipped downstairs and closed our bedroom door, I can still hear big little voices and the patter of small feet.)

Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving - copied from various sites on the internet

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been futilely attempting to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did, however, establish a settlement in Canada. In the year 1578, Frobisher held a formal ceremony to give thanks for surviving the long journey. More settlers arrived and continued the ceremonial tradition initiated by Frobisher, who was eventually knighted...

It should be noted that the 1578 ceremony was not the first Thanksgiving as defined by First Nations tradition. Long before the time of Martin Frobisher, it was traditional in many First Nations cultures to offer an official giving of thanks during autumnal gatherings. In Haudenosaunee culture, Thanksgiving is a prayer recited to honor "the three sisters" (i.e., beans, corn, and squash) during the fall harvest.

The first Thanksgiving Day in Canada after Confederation was observed on April 15, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

Proclamation and Observance of General Thanksgiving Days and reasons therefore.

Monday, 14 Oct. 1957:
For general thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings
with which the people of Canada have been favoured

Years thereafter:
Proclamation of 1957 fixing for the years thereafter
Thanksgiving Day on second Monday in October

(I find it most interesting that a writer instigated one of the biggest US holidays.)

George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, although some were opposed to it. There was discord among the colonies, many feeling the hardships of a few Pilgrims did not warrant a national holiday. And later, President Thomas Jefferson scoffed at the idea of having a day of thanksgiving.

It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies' Magazine, and later, in Godey's Lady's Book. Finally, after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's obsession became a reality when, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happy Birthday to a Woman who loves chocolate, dancing, singing, poetry, teaching, chocolate, walking, friends, candlelight, full moons, travel, chocolate, beauty, love, laughing, hugging, chocolate, faces, friends, movies, extravagance, Steve, flowers, sunshine, truth... and all things great and small


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Sunday Morning Dialogue - oops Monologue

The rain is pouring down on my little house and I think "another day in which to write." I am becoming boring and yet I don't care much. I have never been comfortable in a room full of people especially in a party scene where silliness abounds - not that I'm against silliness. I can talk cowgirl talk and dance on a table to the tune of "I'm a Redneck Woman" though I ain't a redneck. Although this writing binge does make me feel a little guilt. There are practical things that I should be doing - like vacuuming and laundry and paying bills. But things haven't got out of hand and I am enjoying myself in a perverse way. I say perverse because writing, for me, is always pushing boundaries. This takes time. And so when I find myself in the right space to write what I want, I don't want to leave.

Nevertheless, on Friday night I drove myself to the first Dialogue session of the year, apprehensive as I am always a little scared when I attend these meetings where a room of mostly strangers try to catch (as I understand it) the thought behind the thought. And express how one is feeling about what one is saying or feeling about what another is saying while at the same time, listening. Does this make sense?

David Bohm who (I think) is the originator of dialogue writes that "It enables inquiry into, and understanding of the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization. (If you want to know more about Dialogue, google David Bohm "Dialogue - A Proposal.")

I believe that I have difficulty communicating verbally. I am much better with my pen. Is this because I can follow a thought through without interruption? Yet one should never interrupt another in Dialogue meetings. One listens carefully to each word that is spoken while at the same time noticing one's own bodily reaction to what is being said. At this meeting, I felt uncomfortable with what was being expressed. At first, it seemed too on the surface. People were being too nice and it didn't feel to me - I can speak only for myself - reflective or genuine. It's so easy to say nice things "peace, love, heavy, goovy" and so much more difficult to speak of harsher realities "war, hate, vomit, shit."

What I am trying to say is that it is easy to praise and be pleasant to another. It is easier still to accept praise and pleasantries. (Maybe not.) But when my truth is not pleasant, it is more difficult to verbalize it. I worry that I am projecting some of my own crap on another. And I do not want to be cruel. But it seems to me that if these meetings are to be true and beneficial then all should be spoken. If one feels anxious or defensive, it can be verbalized and examined for what it is. In "Dialogue - A Proposal" the author(s) say that

For example, we
do not notice that our attitude toward another person may be profoundly
affected by the way we think and feel about someone else who might share
certain aspects of his behavior or even of his appearance. Instead, we
assume that our attitude toward her arises directly from her actual

Dialogue is complicated. And exhausting. Yet it fascinates me - pushes me to examine where I am coming from. And express these thoughts. For example - I am feeling a little over my head in describing Dialogue. I am afraid that I'm not smart enough to grasp the process. This is my history. When I was at school, I'd tell myself that if I received a good mark, I'd know that I had a brain in my head and everytime that I received the good grade (which was most of the time) I'd think "luck" or "I sure fooled her or him." When I told this to one of my professors, she looked annoyed at me. "Don't you think everyone feels that way? Every class, I think that this will be the one where I am found out to be an impostor."

I feel as if I'm on the last leg of my journey. I want more than anything to be courageous enough to speak my truth. I want only those who can handle my truths around me. And what I fear deep down is that no one can handle them.

And so I like the hermit life.

Though I did go out with a friend this week to speak about writing and angst and drink good strong coffee. And then on whim, we decided to see "2 Days in Paris" a rough little film about a couple's antagonistic relationship in my favourite city in all the world. The last author I read described it as "criminally beautiful."

Paris Market

The woman of the couple is French. They are visiting her parents. The man is American. He speaks little French and so often sits in ignorance while others say outrageous things - often about him. (I have been there.) I found the film slightly amateurish but still I enjoyed it especially the dialogue that was for me authentic and revealing. I like that the French are not afraid of bitchy or sexy talk. But I would cut the last few lines in the film - the wrap-up - because it was sucky-sweet and spoiled what came before.

And then my friend and I went to a reading where 20 aspiring writers read from their own work. I found a few of them breath-takingly wonderful. And yet I would not have wanted to be reading, exposing myself.

I think every closet writer dreams of recognition and big bucks but I can't write under such pressure. I remind myself over and over that what I am writing at the moment is for me. I want to create something that is beautiful. But I do this knowing that everyone has her own aesthetic and thus a different definition of beauty. At present, I'm learning to trust mine.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday Morning

I'm sitting outside a coffee shop in Dunderave. It's the first day of fall and though there's a bright clear sky and warm breeze, I feel anxious.

A young man passes my table and extinguishes a cigarette with a loud "yuch." You didn't enjoy that, I say.

"It's part of a hypnosis program," he tells me. "In three days, I'm smoking a third less."

Bad Habit

I would like to quit. I don't want to. I like the little breaks I take from people "to catch a breath of fresh air." I smoke when I write.

And yet I feel like a complete idiot: I do worry that this habit is shortening my life. I have stood outside cancer wards while a friend went through chemo and radiation treatments and smoked. This friend who is no longer alive was angry at me. "You do what you do and you're the healthy one," she'd say. "Isn't fair."

I am embarrassed.

"It's my only vice," I tell people. "I don't want to be too good."

Iris Murdoch wrote something to the effect that good is boring.

What do I mean by good? Squeaky clean, holier than thou, pure, sweet, nice, Polly-Annish.

Rubbish, I tell myself. Good is kind, generous, sincere, true - qualities that I aspire to. None of my friends smoke and I don't find them boring.

Are you trying to kill yourself? Are you trying to feel bad? (I talk to myself.)

This could be part of it. If I feel bad about something I've said or done, I can beat myself up about smoking and ignore the deeper reason for my misery. Or avoid trying to sort it out.

There's a lecture by James Hollis, a Jungian analyst, in Vancouver in October about his latest book "Why Good People do Bad Things." I will go because I like Hollis: he's a good speaker and I'm curious - what bad things? (Are they horrible - like physically abusing someone or simpler like smoking?)

I hate the distinctions good and bad. I want to be neither. I simply want to be.

I had dinner with two friends this past week. A long luxurious dinner (over four hours) where we caught up on each others' lives. Towards the end of the evening, the conversation wound round to people who think themselves unlovable and I found myself almost in tears.

Do I think myself unlovable is a question that I've been thinking about ever since. And how could I think this way when I have friends who openly express their love for me?

When I was working in the store or running a writing workshop, I felt good about myself because so many applauded my efforts. I felt as if I were contributing something, giving something back to the world that has been kind to me.

As a hermit writer who spends hours and days alone, without applause or pay (now that's another but overlapping issue) without knowing if I am up to the task - whether I will be able to complete a book to my own satisfaction let alone to anyone else's standard - I worry that I'm wasting my time. My life will be over and I'll have nothing to show for it.

I think it was Jung who said something to the effect that we lead small lives if we keep to ourselves.

And so I push myself to give through writing - even this blog, at times, feels as if I'm exposing myself, leaving myself open to criticism, but it is a sharing.

I don't think I'm unlovable though I do worry sometimes.

Isn't all love contingent on one's behaviour - one's words and actions?

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I have had a week of quiet happiness. I loved my summer of celebrations but now I want to be alone and write, meander around the house and take care of bits of business. I want to see my eldest son. I want to dance.

This past week I've been rude and piggy. I haven't answered my emails. I haven't dressed till afternoon. I have written enough to make me feel as if I've accomplished something. I've followed whims - searched for information on the internet about obscure things that I want to know about. I went to a dance class with Marlene. I went to a film set to visit Rob. And I've been reading "that summer in paris" by abha dawesar for the second time (I think this is only the third time in my life that I've read a book and, when finished, returned to page 1 and started again) because it inspires me to write.

I am having an obsessive love affair with writing. When I am not with my love, I ache to return to him/her. Naturally, I still get that mocking laugh in my ear "Who do you think you are?" but I tell him/her, myself really, that no matter how bad or good my book is, I will complete it. I am beginning to believe that this is possible.

Speaking of love, I am still trying to understand what it's all about, to define the word, the state of being in love. Further, I want to understand what love is in a relationship? What is love in a marriage? Can it last forever? What happens if "love" remains static, stops growing; and is simply a safety net, a better-than-being alone, a financial advantage? I tell my daughter to have a career, be able to support herself, before she marries (not necessarily in the traditional legal sense) so her choices will not depend on her partner's generosity.

My father stole my breath when, just as I was leaving, he said that "others' interference" caused the problems in his marriage. I assumed that he was talking about the day before when he and my mother were arguing. I told myself to not interfere but when he said that she hadn't worked for the last fifteen years, that he did everything, I couldn't help myself, I said "that isn't fair, Dad."

Actually, my parents fight little these days - are kind and sweet - but when they do, both go for the jugular. I find it painful to listen to them though I do learn.

One of their greatest difference of opinion revolves around their home. Mum hates where she lives. Dad loves it. He says that Mum doesn't know what she wants as if this not-knowing is uncommon, unrealistic.

I feel for both of them. But what disturbs me the most is that neither is respectful of the other's side. Neither says "I hear you. I understand that you love your house. I understand that you hate your house. Is there a compromise? Is there anything we can do that will make us both happy?"

Perhaps there isn't. I don't think that either person in a relationship should give up his or her dream. And I do think, rightly or wrongly, that it is harder for women. As a woman, as one who has taken care of the hearth and children, and not earned the big pay-cheque, I have fought myself on too many occasions, have had to remind myself that my worth, my contribution to the relationship cannot be weighed by the cold hard cash I've contributed. And it has been easier (though not easy) because I live with a man who urged me to get away from work that made me unhappy, paid a pittance, and keeps saying, write.

And I love him for his urging, his kindness. Oh, he can still infuriate me as I must infuriate him but this past week, I feel a shift in our relationship. We talk more. He whispers sweet-nothings that touch me. I say crazy little things to him.

All is well.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


"Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again
It's so far and out of sight...
I won't be happy till I see you alone again
Till I'm home again and feeling right"

I made it - home that is - in my little house in the garden right now. Rob is a yell away in the big house. And I am happy. I feel as if I have been traveling forever. No complaints. I have had some extraordinary adventures (with Gill as my companion most of the time.) But I want to settle and write. My eyes and ears have been over stimulated - so many riches - and I'm aching to get them down. I want time to slow down. No, I need to slow down.

This just might turn out to be a long and winding blog so if I bore you, just skip through and look at the few pictures I've added. (I always say I hate description. Give me action. But so much has been happening that I don't know what to edit.) I will try to recapture some moments from the past week, going backwards.


Ron Nigrini at Hugh's Room

I went to Hugh's Room to see Ursula and hear Ron Nigrini perform. The last time I saw Ursula was, I think, in Toronto, when we went to see her daughter perform. (We decide this evening that our musical evenings should become a tradition. There is something about listening to live music with a friend that makes me feel good, quickens the heart - maybe it's the company, maybe it's all that foot-stomping and shoulder swaying, maybe both.) The last time I saw Nigrini was around 35 years ago during my Ryerson days when he was young and gorgeous. He is still gorgeous - tall and lean with a boyish smile but now he has an easier way with his audience, goes around between sets and shakes hands, smiles, says a few words...

Before the music starts, I go outside for a smoke and run into an old friend, Patrick Spence- Thomas. I recognize him from a picture Rob took on a recent visit. I can't remember the last time I saw him. He looks older but so do I. I call his name. He looks at me puzzled. It's Yvonne, I say. He still looks puzzled until I shake hands with his wife and say I'm Rob's wife (oh I know I hate this possessive word but it helped.) Patrick smiles and says I haven't changed a bit. He's such a liar but I love him anyway. He's always been a charmer and one of the kindest and most generous men I know.

I return to Ursula, dinner, and music. Eugene Smith begins the set. He is black with long white dreadlocks. He laughs a lot, is real casual, and I especially like his rendition of Lay Lady Lay - that has been one of my favourite Dylan tunes since Rob and I bought an old brass bed... think I have sex on the brain.

Soon Nigrini takes the stage with four musicians, one of whom is a young woman, Anne Lindsay who plays the violin and fiddle beautifully. I love the music - sort of country folk - and lyrics that tell about love, freight trains, and Indians. I worry that Ursula is bored but am reassured when I see her body move to the beat. She tells me later that she did enjoy the music - she likes musicians who have a social conscience. I believe her because Ursula, though always kind, doesn't lie.


Gill and I go to the restaurant where Gill used to work, and sit on high stools, sipping a martini (Gill) and margarita (me) watching Sex in the City while her chef lover prepares us a surprise meal. Gill told him that I was disappointed that I didn't get to experience the ten-course feast in Paris and so he decides to make up for the missed meal. We start with prawns wrapped in prosciutto on a skewer on a bed of crispy spicy noodles. We move on to roast duck sitting on layers of sliced beets and potatoes, followed by a white fish smothered in white sauce atop fresh baby asparagus. All is amazing but by this time, we're both full to bursting and decline any more courses, even his famous creme brulee.

As we walk down the street towards Gill's apartment after the meal - Gill's arm linked to the chef - I think perhaps my daughter has found her dream man. He can definitely cook. He's quiet and thoughtful. And he doesn't demand anything that she doesn't want to give.


Michael on Walton Mackenzie on Brown

I still find it strange that my youngest son has made his home round the corner from my parents. But it is convenient - for them and me - though I know that is not Michael and Mackenzie's reason for being there. They were living in an itsy-bitsy apartment in Cobourg and made the move when they found their present place - a spacious apartment in a house - with turn-of-the-century architectural detail, wide hallway, and separate bedroom plus an office for Michael. Every time I see these two, they seem happier. Mackenzie made a shephard's pie (with vegetarian substitute for meat) and a Greek salad and heaped our plates so high, I doubted I could finish it. I did. As much as I like gourmet feasts, I love good old-fashioned cooking - comfort food. And it was comforting and reassuring to sit with these two, and eat and sip wine, and catch up.


I can't believe the quantity and quality of food I've eaten this past week. My parents picked Gilly and I up in Massena where we left the rental car and we drove back over the border to Kingston and stopped for a meal. After a lot of discussion and wandering, we ended up at The Keg where my father treated us to the meal of our choice. Gill had a green salad and a shrimp cocktail appetizer and I had a steak and garlic mashed potatoes. (No wonder, I'm feeling pleasantly plump. Until I wrote this, I didn't know I had eaten so much.)


Dancing with My Baby

I said I would continue my story about the wedding but now it seems more like a month ago rather than a week. The ceremony was lovely as was the reception after in the white-domed training rink. There were around 170 guests - many of whom contributed to the feast. More good food. (I think I have to be alone so I won't eat.) And lots of wine. And then the dancing began. Gill made me dance with her and Ayah captured us on the dance floor in the picture above. It was a good night but I felt a little lonely - knew so few people - and most were couples. I stuck around till midnight because I had to find a moment - when they weren't surrounded - to speak to the mother and father of the bride. Although some might not believe this, I'm very shy with strangers but I gathered my courage and spoke to them a little about the wedding - the scenes and words that appealed to me and thanked them.

So much to think on and be thankful for...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vermont Wedding

Vermont wedding

The bride Mariah, her father Scott, and Bella (daughter of Thomas) approach the altar from across the meadow while horse in blue bow-tie and friend in blue dress watch.

Brothers & Mother of Thomas' child

Simon (Thomas' brother), Thomas, and Miranda (mother of Thomas' daughter, also one of Thomas' "best men")wait for ceremony to begin.

Mother, sister, and lovers

Richard, beloved partner of Kathy, and Kathy - Thomas' mother and Rob's sister stand with Sarah and Rene (Thomas' sister and her husband/lover.)

New Husband and Wife

Thomas and Mariah at the altar. At one point in the ceremony, Thomas becomes teary. He, as the bride's father said, "wears his heart on his sleeve."

Thomas wrote the vows that were said by both (and I became teary too.) They begin:

"Today I give myself to you in marriage. I fell in love with you for the qualities, abilities, and outlook on life that you have, and won't try to reshape you in a different image. I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask of you no more than you can give. I promise to accept and respect you the way you are as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs, and to realize that those are sometimes different but no less important than my own."

(I am a little overwhelmed with all I have done and seen in the last few days.)

The wedding day was beautiful - blue skies and a warm breeze - and the trip across rolling green hills, past ranches and farms, to the ceremony made me feel as if I were in a country and western film. We arrived at the Pease Harrower ranch shortly before the ceremony, took our offering of Vodka and couscous and tomato-and-basil salad (made by Gill) to the large white-roofed training "barn" that looked more like a enormous modern tent where round tables and long serving table, white clothed and surrounded by wild flowers, were set for the feast.

We climbed another slight hill to the meadow. I followed a woman with flowing grey hair past her waist, dressed in an Indian sequined skirt and gypsy blouse with incongruous ankle socks and Birkenstocks on her feet. She is a beauty but so is the young slight woman from New York, walking beside her, but so different in her designer dress and heels. Over to the side, in one of the pickup trucks, sat a tall, pot-bellied man, beer in plastic cup (never saw him without it all day and night long,) wearing jeans, white shirt and a jaunty white cowboy hat. (It was a great day for people-watching.)

Two horses in blue ties stood guard. Two young women - one with a violin, the other with a cello - played music by Wagner, Mozart, Bach.

Gill and I sat with Ayah - my niece - in front of an flowered arbour and watched the wedding party proceed to their places. The mother-of-the-bride, a slight pretty woman in a silk gown walked with her dog (also adorned with a blue tie.) I am told that mother and daughter love animals.

One of the loveliest moments in the marriage ceremony was when the bride and her father and flower girl appear in the distance and begin their long walk across the meadow to the altar.

to be continued...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

On the road again...

Gill and I arrived in Montpelier last night after yet another adventure. My father had lent me his older cadillac and GPS so I left Port Hope feeling fancy with my bottom sinking into leather and my daughter manning the computerized dashboard. We both looked at each other sighed and Gill spoke my thought "I now know why people like fancy cars."

My father's mechanic had given the car a thorough tuning and swore all was well for an eight-hour journey along highway 401 to Cornwall across the American border and south/east to Montpelier.

The car did make it across the border and through a few country towns but when we rounded a bend in the middle of nowhere a warning message flashed across the dash: Battery low. And then something about immediate care required. We drove several more miles until we found a rustic clapboard garage - the kind you'd expect to see in a period film - and spoke to the owner/mechanic. He tested the battery. Fine. Pronounced the alternator the problem-maker. (What's an alternator?) (Or is that alternater?)

The car was going nowhere, he told us.

His name is Lee and he is married to Sue who didn't say much at first except ask us where we were going in our fancy clothes. (We didn't tell her they were casual.) Five minutes later she described her trial with leukemia. Lee was her rock. She has been clear for three years. And then we learned about her triathalon endeavours. And finally she introduced us to her children - Midnight, Pee Wee, and Bouger (2 cats and a dog). And then Lee ran to the house to get a picture of Pee Wee (or was it Midnight) to show us.

The garage was immaculate. Lee had his hourly rate noted above the desk (32.50) He said he meets a few characters in his businesss. And has many loyal clients. One old lady who has little money pays him with hugs and homemade bread.

He let me use the phone to call my Dad. He called a rental car place - around 20 miles away - and asked if they could pick us up and rent us a vehicle. No problem. He assured my Dad that his car was safe until he could move it.

After Sue helped us move our suitcases to the rental vehicle, commenting "la de dah" because the cases had handles and wheels, both Gill and I hugged her. (Lee was busy with a client.) We waved.

And so we finally made it to Montpelier in our not so fancy Taurus.

Now, I am sitting on a rocking chair on the porch of Betsy's Bed and Breakfast, linked to the internet, thinking about travel. I've heard it's good for the soul, takes you places where you are out of your element, tests you. Some might get angry if their car breaks down or there's no room at the inn but what would it achieve? I'm learning and I think it important your choice of traveling companion.

After leaving the garage in our rental car, Gill smiles at me and says she's happy. The only thing that pisses her off is that we are whizzing by too many good pictures and her momma won't stop.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Like a Bird on the Wire

Yesterday I flew from London to Toronto. As we were approaching TO, the captain came over the loudspeaker and said it was a special flight for him - his last. He had lived his dream of flying a large plane for 35 years and he was retiring.

When the wheels touched the runway, the co-pilot's voice told us not to be alarmed by the fire engines on each side of the plane. They were there to salute the captain bid him farewell. Firemen aimed their hoses at the windows and sprayed water beginning at the front and working their way down to the rear of the plane. As each section was sprayed, the passengers applauded.

I thought it a fine send-off and was happier still that once again I had landed safely. (Will I ever get over my fear of flying?)

I stayed in London one night at an airport hotel so didn't get a taste of this fancy city but I did have a few days in my beloved Paris with my beloved daughter. This has to be the most extravagant, luscious, beautiful city in all the world. And I oh so love to hear French spoken with a Parisian accent and watch the smart Parisiennes with their stylish scarves and fancy heels kiss cheek to cheek by the Seine or the Sorbonne or Cafe Flore or anywhere that my favourite authors - Beauvoir and Colette and Nin - lived and wrote.

In the evening of my only full day in Paris, Gill and I were to dine at "The Hidden Kitchen" that has had rave revues. It is in a private apartment where two young chefs create and serve a ten course meal. Unfortunately the man of the couple mistook the day or was it the month and we were out of luck. But the woman was very apologetic and directed us to a Moroccan restaurant on a small street that we would never have happened on without direction.

They were full but Gill with a big smile and sweet words got us in. The owner, his staff, and the chef (who kept sending his big smiles my way... yet it's Gilly who has a thing for chefs) were great but the food was superlative and we were content - so content we danced down side streets on our way home and forgave the hidden kitchen.

Tomorrow, Gill and I leave for a horse ranch in Vermont. My nephew is getting married.

I feel light and happy... and in a week or near enough, I will be home in Vancouver. And the only thing I dread is the plane ride.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Birthday Celebrations



IMG_3265 IMG_3271

Susan's 80th birthday was celebrated August 24th at Chateau Couanac. As usual David created a crown for her - this one very beautiful with flowers.

Birthday of first son

Brendan's 29th birthday is being celebrated - perhaps even at this very minute - somewhere in Los Angeles.

I love these two people.

No time for many words as Gill and I leave for Paris in a few hours and I must finish cleaning and clearing the house. Rob will arrive sometime in October and November 1st a massive restoration and renovation will take place. I will return sometime in the spring to paint.

And so I leave - sadly - as I am always sad when I leave this ancient village: I will miss everything and everybody but mostly Susan. And after Paris, I will spend a night in London and then on to Toronto, Port Hope, Middlesex Vermont, and finally back to Vancouver September 8th because I miss others there. Always this tug of war within my heart.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mother and Daughter Travels

Gill at Narbonne Plage Yvonne at Beach

Traveling with Gill is a delight. She too loves adventure and does not turn sour when things do not work out as planned.

We decided to take a little trip to the Mediterranean. Narbonne Beach is only a 2 1/2 hour trip so we set off early, planned to find a hotel for one night and bath in the sand and sun. Although we did the same trip with Shirley and Rowan, without reservations, all went well even though the first night's hotel was a touch sleazy. This trip there were no empty hotel rooms in the seaside towns.

No matter. We rented comfortable beach lounges and an umbrella, I read, Gill walked, and we both enjoyed the sights - a lot of beautiful people (many bare-breasted women) cavorting and relaxing. Around six, we headed into the nearest city, Narbonne, and walked for two hours looking for a hotel - still no luck - even at the less desirable hotels. We drove to Nissan, found a quaint inn, where we were lectured about dropping in at 7:30 at night and not making reservations six months in advance. We drove to the next large centre - Beziers - and tried more inns - again no luck finding a bed for the night. (At this point, we were not fussy.)

So we laughed and decided to take care of another need - our stomachs - found a good outdoor restaurant, shared a salmon salad, ate a good meal of fish and steak, had one glass of wine, and hit the autoroute planning to drive home. But it was dark and I was tired. We pulled off at a rest stop that had a hotel (but again full), parked our car in a dark spot, put down the seats. And laughed some more. (This was definitely Gill's influence. Without her, I would have been in tears.) Gill used a towel for a blanket. Me, a shawl. We wiggled around, trying to get comfortable, thought sleep impossible. We woke at 3:30 in the morning and headed into the restaurant for breakfast that was surprising good - fresh coffee and tea and a plate with croissant, roll, butter and a small jar of gourmet jam.

Although the sun rises late in this part of the world - around 7 - we returned to the autoroute where I pretended I was part of the convoy of trucks, moving at around 80 kph, and watching cars whizz by at 130. We arrived home before 8 in the morning.

Gill laughed as I climbed into bed, groaning with pleasure, kissing my pillow, and thanking the heavens for a good bed... and a lively, fun-loving travel companion who kept the mood light, at no time complaining about my haphazard take-what-comes approach to travel.

When I described our adventure to Frances and Carole - two friends in our village, Frances groaned and said she'd never travel in August in the south of France, without a reservation. Perhaps we will plan better in the future - but I love spontaneity too much to organize too much - but even my daughter agreed that it would have been more comfortable with blankets and pillows. Next time, we will bring some... just in case.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Village Life

I am thick into Tête-à-Tête, loving the play by play of Sartre and Beauvoir’s lives.

And so I read and read and then write and from time to time, devour a cheap mystery that somehow does not seem such a sin as Sartre and Beauvoir loved mysteries. And my novel sometimes appears a joke but I persevere and am allowing myself all kind of liberties. Somehow the discussion with Susan about this being only a draft and lazy writing has made a difference. It has slowed me down but I think the text richer...

Several nights ago, Gill and I went to the village fete that was rather corny as it was a band with an accordion lead. How the villagers loved it - especially the older folk who danced and twirled - often women with women. And how I wanted a dancing partner so Gill and I got up and danced a few numbers and then a very tall lean man asked me to dance and I did and I loved the movement. We danced well together though he was much too tall and I had to stay on my toes so it wasn't altogether agreeable.

Last night Gill and I went to the village feast that takes place every August 15.
See her blog for an account and pictures: “join me at the table".

I'm feeling like a fat slug I sit so much so I agreed to water David’s garden, as he and Susan wanted to escape the five days of music. Their garden is outside the village, down a steep road that isn’t much fun walking back up but I do it stoically. Once there, we follow David's regime of checking out the zucchini and cutting the big ones and putting them in a basket, and then picking up the yellow plums and apples that have fallen - so many and though yummy, I am growing a little tired of them. And as Susan so eloquently says "They make you shit but it's worth it." At this point, I have to pull the cover off the well and toss the bucket down - wiggle it around until it is full and then pull it up hand over hand, pour the water into a watering can and water the zucchini, tomatoes, and cabbage. The rest - onions and beets and lettuce and herbs, he says do just fine without water.

Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Loves

University Days Olga-Algren-SimoneSartre and Beauvoir

For those who are interested in Beauvoir and Sartre (if you are not as fascinated as I am by their lives, don't read this long rambling account): I just finished Tête-à-Tête and then immediately sat myself down and wrote about it to assimilate the information. I am not checking details so don't quote me.

I have always admired the relationship between Sartre and Beauvoir - never marrying or living together (even when they spent their annual holiday in Rome, they had separate hotel rooms.) Still their relationship has been called a "marriage" but, after reading Rowley's biography of the couple, I would not call it one. Marriage, in my mind, includes sharing a bedroom and having sex but early in their relationship, Beauvoir and Sartre stopped fornicating. And what surprised me is that Sartre didn't even like sex. He admitted never being able to let go. It wasn't a problem getting an erection and ejaculating but he didn't like it much (or only for a second.) He said that he liked the touching and caressing of another body but the rest left him cold. He would complain to Beauvoir that his young women were too demanding. They exhausted him.

On his 74th birthday, he began a flirtation with Francoise Sagan. At that time, he boasted that he had nine women in his life. He loved the seduction of sweet young women of promise. He did not love them and leave them - true to his existential thought that freedom includes taking responsibility for one's actions - he took care of the women, giving them his time (carefully scheduled into time blocks of a hour or two; once, twice, or three times a week) and his money and sometimes even his talent - he wrote plays for several of his conquests.

When he traveled, he often seduced his interpreter - the best way to learn a language. All this action by a man who doesn't like sex surprises me. As does his lie-telling to his young women (that he admitted to, in an interview.) He'd say he was working in one place with someone - usually Beauvoir - and he'd be with another of his loves, somewhere completely different. He was often found out because his picture would appear in a newspaper with his traveling companion.

Sartre has been described as short, ugly, fat, poorly dressed, and smelly and yet women vied for his attention. On the positive side, he has been described as an extraordinary listener, sensitive, and giving - especially with his money. He was paid a bundle in royalties from his books and for his lecture tours and newspaper and magazine articles and most of it, he gave away. He was often broke. Money never swayed him. When he was won the Nobel Prize - which he refused for ethical reasons - he gave up a grand sum that he could have used.

And what of the "Beaver" which is what Sartre and her friends called Beauvoir? She too loved young women of promise - several of whom were her students - though for years, she denied their relationship was sexual. She also loved men. Her greatest love affair, in my mind, was one with the American writer and journalist, Nelson Algren. He wanted marriage. She refused. And when she published stories - one fiction, one not - about their relationship, he was furious and denounced, mocked, and criticized her person and her work. And still she wore his ring until death. Unlike Sartre, Beauvoir had a voracious sexual appetite that often drove her to despair. She would have liked to have been less passionate. As she grew older, she hated desiring and being, in her mind, undesirable.

Throughout her life, she adored, respected, clung to her genius Sartre. I see them as intellectual equals. They edited each other work, discussed ideas for hours on end, and wrote alone in the morning and together in the afternoon when in the same city. When apart, they wrote each other long letters telling everything about their work and love life. I now see their relationship as more of a rich friendship than a "marriage" - or perhaps one could say that they were like a close sister/brother duet. One of the things that I like most about their partnership is that they gave each other courage to be free and responsible. ("Screw up your courage," Sartre said to Beauvoir when she hesitated about writing her autobiography.) Each was like a mirror for the other. And when one was in despair about his or her love life, there was always the knowledge that someone cared deeply and understood.

I am shocked by some of their "antics" - both his and hers - but I am also impressed? touched? (I don't know the right word) by both their courage to deal with emotional upheaval and ostracization. Sartre might be a scoundrel as far as his love life - or should I say, sex life was concerned, but as far as his work went, he was fanatically true to his beliefs. I don't think it was easy for either Beauvoir or Sartre to share their personal lives with the public but they did. But here, Beauvoir ranks higher. She has been more than generous about sharing the facts of her life - even after death via her adopted daughter, Sophie Le Bon de Beauvoir; whereas Sartre and his adopted daughter have been less than generous. It is a shame. We have only Beauvoir's truths about their relationship. It would be good to read Sartre's to know if they truly were in agreement.