Friday, May 25, 2007


Shirley gave me "Divisadero" Michael Ondaatje's new novel for my birthday late because I was not here for my birthday.

I read the first six sentences and am excited.

"When I come to lie in your arms, you sometimes ask me in which historical moment do I wish to exist. And I will say Paris, the week Colette died... Paris, August 3rd, 1954. In a few days, at her state funeral, a thousand lilies will be placed by her grave, and I want to be there, walking that avenue of lime trees until I stand beneath the second-floor apartment that belonged to her in the Palais-Royal. The history of people like her fills my heart. She was a writer who remarked that her only virtue was self-doubt."

I know, without doubt, that this is the way I want to write.

"Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it." So says Colette.

I have had a busy day - making breakfast for my sister, driving old paint tins to a environmental disposal depot, showing a piano that I would like to sell, surfing for cheap flights to Europe, shopping for wine and groceries. On impulse - before I leave the grocery store, before I pour myself a glass of wine and open Ondaatje's book - I buy a bouquet of lilies.

At a 50th birthday party I gave for my friend Leslie, I asked guests to come as someone famous. Henri de Toulouse Lautrec came. So did J.K. Rowling. And Minnie Mouse and Walt Disney. Jane Austen was present. I can't remember all the celebrities. I was Colette.

Once on a train to Paris, I sat reading Colette. I wish I could remember which book. I was scared. I was excited. I imagined myself as a character in her novel. "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."

I worry too much about sounding foolish. It kills my writing.

Earlier in the day, I received a poem from Marlene. A deliciously wonderful poem by Oliver. It ends:

I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

I have read a lot of shit lately, looking for a way into writing a page-turner. And then a day like yesterday happens when friends hand me a poem and some prose and I find myself lustful - I pause here, search through my drawers for my Mont Blanc pen, the one that Rob gave for my 50th birthday, the one I hide every time I go to Europe, the only object that I own that is the best in the world - and know that I am now in a good place, space, to work.

Does that last sentence sound unnatural, too manipulated, like I'm trying too hard? I don't know. I will publish on whim, something I haven't done for a while.

Friday, May 18, 2007


The green green grass of home

I've been home a week. The grass is a rich green from all the rain I thankfully missed. I had to take this picture of how Rob cut the grass. He couldn't bear to cut the flower-weeds so mowed around them - you would never know that we live in the beautifully manicured, fancy area of West Vancouver - and, for some reason, his leaving the flowers endeared him to me.

I am still a little fuzzy after travel and doing my usual nesting and cleaning. Although I have spoken to a few friends and family members, I am most often alone (especially as Rob is working strange hours). As my trips pile up - last year I was in Europe for five months - I see that friends are in touch less often, not because (I hope) they've forgotten about me but because I am no longer a part of their day-to-day life. In some ways, I feel lonely but, in others, I am happy to have this time to think, to catch up on all the little things that gather - like dust and paperwork - when I am away from home.

I still think of Vancouver as home, as the place where I am most comfortable though Rob and I talk often about selling, about retiring east, about adventure, about being excited about the rest of our lives. Before we know it, we will be dead. I like the hardness of the word "death." It means no nonsense: it is going to happen and, like Oliver, I don't want to feel as if I've just visited this world. I want to roam, taste exotic food, drink wonderful vintages, dance to exhaustion, sing, write a book, love and be loved passionately. I want to die knowing that I followed my natural bent. I want to be at peace.

Wow, where did all that come from? My last day in Paris, I spent several hours roaming the Montparnase cementary where the remains of Baudelaire, Sartre, Beauvoir and many others lie. I wonder, in the end, how each felt about his or her life.


Film Maker

My Heros

My motto

I love the last one that says "My work is my prayer."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's day
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.
Happy Mothers' Day to all the women who have mothered me from the time that I was a little girl to the present day.

And love to those who let me mother them though, at times, I am awkward and don't know how to express my love.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Home Coming

I'm in Paris, packing for home. At ten, I will meet a friend for coffee and then will trudge with my two bags to the RER to Charles de Gaulle, fly to Heathrow, and then the long long endless flight to Vancouver - though hopefully it will end and I will land safely in YVR. I am afraid of flying though Rob laughs when I say this. How can one who flies so much be afraid?

I had a glorious day in Paris yesterday, wandered till my feet ached - took a walk through the Montparnnase cemetary, up to near Pigalle to visit Gill's French/Turkish family who fed me at their restaurant and gave me a gift for Gill, then onto Galleries Lafayette, Shakespeare and Company, Le Polidor for dinner. By the time, I arrived back in my hotel, I was exhausted but couldn't sleep, kept turning the light on and off and reading. The last time I looked at the clock, it was 3 a.m.

Oh forgot something important - a Gill's bidding, I had my hair cut tres Parisienne.

I'm off.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Celebrating Bedding

Bedding is Seventy

The Birthday Party

David and Ruth making music in our kitchen

Ruth sings love song

Bedding's Birthday Card

On Thursday evening, family and friends celebrated Bedding's 70th birthday. She is as astonished as the rest of us that she is that age. We had a quiet evening of music and poetry, food and wine, to honour this woman who is one of the kindest, most loving and generous women I know.

She has an amazing aesthetic. Her home is beautiful. So is her garden. She paints, photographs, bakes, plays music. When I listed her talents on a birthday card, she said "I am not this woman." She is. And always, always when she helps me - whether she drives me to town, lends me a bedroom, repairs a table or window, wires a lamp - she says "It is nothing."

She is really something. So I brought her Irish linen napkins from Ireland, took her to lunch, and gave a party complete with balloons and candles. She smiles and says "This is my best birthday ever." It is impossible not to love her.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Room with a View
Attic View

Attic Lookout

This is where I perch in the morning to watch the sun rise and write in my journal or return in the afternoon to edit sections of my novel. It's a rough old house - around 800 years old - though beautiful, it needs a fair bit of work to make it truly comfortable and functionable. Tomorrow a builder and architect are coming to have a look and give me an estimate. First on the list is creating a roof terrace to the left of this window - Rob's dream - and enclosing the rest of the space with double glass doors leading outdoors. And the room will be finished and full of light.

The other day, I was riding high, feeling good about what I had accomplished in the extra time I've given myself here. My final job was to meet a lawyer accountant in Paris and file French tax forms. All was arranged and then she sent me an email telling me that her fee was 265 euros a hour (around 400 CAD). My heart sunk. A lawyer friend in Vancouver charges $225 a hour and I thought that high but $400 to fill in a form? I ranted. I paced. I didn't know what to do. I know I can be unrealistic about cost sometimes but this seemed insane. Still if I don't see her I will have to scramble my last week to find another way to get the job done. I decided to scramble.

Right decision? Wrong decision? I don't know but I do know that I've been given contradictory information. One young woman, a Notaire - real estate lawyer - told me to file. I got in touch with an English/French accounting firm and the man I spoke to said that there's no need to file as there is a convention between Canada and France so people like me/us aren't double taxed (though the thing is that I wouldn't be double taxed - I would fill in the French form noting that I had acknowledged the house and paid my dues in Canada.) We've owned the house seven years and have never filed because we didn't know that we are supposed to file. Or are we?

I am angry at myself. I should be able to speak French better. I have to scramble here, there, and everywhere trying to find a person who speaks English. I have been coming here for seventeen years and still haven't mastered the language enough to take care of business.

Perhaps this is yet another wakeup call. Rob and I have had a number this year. We have put our business affairs in the hands of experts - or so we thought - and we have lost money and paid too much for services. The problem is that it takes time to manage one's finances. I've been taking the time and find that I have probably made more money for us than I would at a job. This does give me some satisfaction.

Rob and I have a strange existence. He has a house to himself in Canada. I have one here. We are both loners Even when we are together in Vancouver, we spend a lot of time alone. I am often in my house in the garden. Rob is in his office. We seldom eat breakfast or lunch together though we do come together for dinner.

I observe other couples' lives and to me they seem claustrophobic. One of my cousins is envious of Rob and my relationship. He says that we have the best of single and married worlds. I am grateful for the way my world turns.

I find myself alone discovering what I like, following my own rhythm, eating, sleeping when I like, sinking into the silence, loving myself and hating myself with no one to blame or praise except myself.

I find myself together with a person who gives me lots of room and trusts me to take care of our business affairs, and who has the warmest, sexiest, most enveloping arms I know.

I am ready to come home. Below: modern train in Gaillac station. I'll take this train to Toulouse next Tuesday where I will catch another to Paris, spend a day wandering (now that I am not going to see the lawyer/account - saving a bundle so I can dine well) and then catch a jet plane to London to Vancouver.

Gaillac Train