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.