Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year in perspective

Please click on each picture individually to see clearly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

The fourth day of celebrations

Stand by Me

A gift of music arrived from Helen this morning and although Rob had already shown me this video, I thought I'd include a link for those of you who haven't seen it. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The third celebratory day

We are celebrating Christmas is our small French village. Near midnight last night, we walked through the town - Gill danced - and saw not a soul though flashing lights and a few plastic Santas trying to climb in windows made us feel Christmasy. 

Strange it was Rob who felt saddest about our no-gift rule this year. And it did feel sad though liberating - no flurry and worry about trying to find the perfect present - but Michael broke the rule (Bren too but his gift will arrive late) and it was quite lovely to have his thoughtful presents and messages under the tree - and then wake in the morning to unwrap his perfect surprises. 

While those I love sleep and hopefully dream sweet dreams in North America, I have just put a squash in the oven for our noon feast. (Kate you must be up too - hope your little ones are happy and give you peace today.) 

Soon I must think of New Year resolutions... I feel next year will bring great change. 

For now, here's my communal Christmas card. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Five Days of Celebrations

My family is rather extraordinary. From the 23rd of December to the 27th,
we celebrate each day for a different reason.

On the first day, we celebrate a sister's birthday:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Once again

For some reason this picture will not enlarge when you click on it so I'm trying once again. 

Tis the Season

There is so much I would like to say but somehow can't bring myself to speak about, at this time - perhaps because there is so much to be thankful for - good friends who love poetry and books, who wine us and dine us. One generous couple let us take the top of a tree from their garden and gave us a pet cloth snake, aptly named Mr. Boa C Draftblocca as he lies by the door and keeps the cold out. (I keep slipping and calling him Mr. Boa Draftdodger.) 


We had two of Gill's friends with us for a week, Robyn and Brandon, who left for Paris yesterday. They were an easy-going, helpful, vibrant young couple who had been on the road for three or four weeks and were happy to do little , catch up on their laundry and reading, and entertained us with tales of their travels. 

Now the house is quiet and today I've tried to catch on my correspondence - not quite - and clean a few rooms. 

   (remember to double click on pictures)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Simple Pleasures

Monday, December 08, 2008

C'est la vie

My daughter leads me to the bar this cool, crisp morning. (On the way, we stop at the Patisserie for 2 pain aux raisons.) We greet Mark, the owner, find a table at the back and order a cafe creme and tea. 

The French language surrounds us. Rapid and undecipherable though Gill understands all that is said. She tells me that my grammar is better than hers but what use is good grammar if I don't understand the responses to my questions. Still I survive.

I survive in this little village. Survive. Is that what I want? To survive pure and simple? Part of me thinks no I want more than survival. I want pleasure. Another part says why not? You're alive. You're here in the south of France not saddled with responsibility - just debt. 

My thoughts are muddled. I just want to live a good life. And I want more time - a dozen years, at the least. Two dozen would be even better. But no matter how much time I have left, I feel that I had better get started on what I want to do with the rest of my days.

I see this is a shift in my thinking. A sign of aging? Carolyn Heilbrun wrote that middle age is the best age. Old enough to know that time is finite. Young enough to be physically capable of realizing dreams - like climbing a mountain, cycling through Italy, writing a book. I figure that I'm near the end of middle age. I'd better get a move on...

After Patrick's, Helen's mother, David Lee's death... and today after learning of Wenda's brother's death, dying is on my mind. Death. I have no words. Why do I weep? The tears flowed at Patrick's wake when really I have only seen the man once in twenty years. And yet, I loved him. But those who have shared his life before and since I knew him, their stories reminded me of what a sweet man he was, how he touched me. I remember one morning, when Rob and I had just started living together and Patrick arrived early to pick him up for work. I sat up in bed when the door opened. In my bleary morning eyes, I saw Patrick stick his head around the door and remember his words: "Oh Yvonne, you even look good in the morning." 

Death. C'est la vie. I have had such a hard time lately finding words to express my thoughts. Gill helps. She wants to write with me and so we write. Why is it, I ask her, that it is easier to do something for someone else than one's self? 

I ordered and received the other day "Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado" translated by Robert Bly. Marlene introduced me to the poet, to his lines "Last night, as I was sleeping,/ I dreamt - marvellous error! -/ that I had a beehive/ here inside my heart./ And the golden bees/ were making white combs/ and sweet honey/ from my old failures."

So many poems in this collection are about dreams and death.

   Like Anacreon,
I want to sing, and to laugh, and to throw
to the wind
the sophisticated sarcasms, and the sobering proverbs.

   And I want even more to get drunk -
you know about it - bizarre!
A true faith in dying, a thin joy,
strange dancing a little ahead of time. 


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gilly arrives in France

Our long-legged high-heeled lovely loving daughter arrived last night near midnight. I embraced her, talked for minute, and then had to crawl back into bed. The bug that kept me prone for two days running, lingers, refuses to leave me alone though yesterday I worked all day, cleaning and organizing so that I could spend time with my baby.

I awoke at seven this morning, made a coffee, and climbed up the stairs to the second floor. Her door was open. Unable to sleep, she was sitting at the white desk that looks out a window to the green garden across the narrow road, writing in a journal.  "Everything is so luxurious," she tells me. "From the light switches beside the bed to the motion-activated light in the hall to the elegant bathtub with tap that allows you to set the temperature of the water." 

I was worried that she wouldn't like the changes as she had said that everything was perfect the way it was. No, she says. "The house is perfect now. All the little things that I didn't like are gone." 

Sigh of relief. I worry that in my desire to do things right in this home that I have gone too far. I want only what I find beautiful. I have adopted my eldest son's philosophy. Live without until you can find or afford what pleases you.

We talk for a hour or so and then Gill, who has only been able to sleep a couple of hours after her long flight, goes back to bed.  I come down to my office, content to have her here. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sick, sore, and tired

I've spent the last two days and nights sleeping, waking briefly every couple of hours or so with a circle of pain in my gut and rushing to the bathroom.... food poisoning, I'd guess. 

Though my energy is still low, I felt better this morning and wanted out in the sunshine so Rob and I drove to Gaillac, picked up sandwiches at the Patisserie (though I couldn't eat much) and wandered the streets of the old town and into the park to the Museum of Beaux Arts. We were the only visitors. Great fun, saying what we wanted about the paintings - as the one employee, the receptionist at the desk was too interested in talking on her cell phone than following us around. The exhibit featured Gaillac painters and sculptors from the 19th & 20th century.  I especially liked one scene of village life - a bit like a Bruegel - where the figures were almost cartoon characters, each one (or almost) had a bottle of wine in hand, faces animated, having a good old time while one crazy rogue was dancing on a table. 

This is not much of a blog I'm afraid but I'm not up to speed and will try to say more soon though I really haven't been doing too much. Rob wins the prize as far as writing goes. He found a program to organize and format his novel and he has over 65,000 words... I'm jealous.   

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Maggie's Birthday

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Indecision is the seedling of fear."

In case you don't know - if you double click on picture, it becomes large enough to read. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mr. Young and I

The trouble with writing a blog is that if one misses one day, then two, then three, moments are lost and it's hard to catch up. For the past week, we've been trying to right ourselves time-wise, deal with house problems (another story) and enjoy the company of Penelope and Roy who arrived the day after us from Tunisia where a wild horse ride left Pen bruised and an exotic diet left Roy a little sick. So we have been recovering together and taking short trips to Cordes, Saint Antonin, Gaillac, Albi, and a few vineyards to give our friends a taste of the region. 


The pictures are from La Domaine de la Chanade, a small superior winery on the route to Cordes. When we arrived the owner, Christian (a charmer) was in the process of emptying the wine press. We learnt that the grape skins and seeds, and anything else left after the grapes have been squeezed dry are given to a government agency who, in turn, turn them into alcohol, and by "donating" such, Christian pays his taxes. 

Christian is proud of his wine and tells us that it is served at some of the finest hotels in France though 80% of his harvest is exported to the eastern United States. We sampled a number of varieties and left with 8 bottles. 

Today Rob, Pen, and Roy have gone to Toulouse and I remain to attend to our house problems and try to catch up with my blog. 

 Was it only a week ago...

that we stopped in Toronto for Patrick's "damn good party" - the party he requested instead of a funeral service? He told his wife that he would be there, glass in hand. On the "Change of Address Card" we were given at the door, we were told that "maudlin, morose or depressing sentiments are discouraged."

We entered a crowded room. I was afraid that I wouldn't recognize anyone. After all, it had been over 30 years since we left Toronto and this was Rob's world really - most of the people would be from the film and television industry. On the back wall a slide show played scenes from Patrick's life. I was happy to spot Audrey, Patrick's first wife who, to my surprise, looked much the same as I remembered her and who had inspired me greatly in the early years of my marriage. I told her that she had made a difference to my life - for instance, it was because of her that my children attended French Immersion. I rattled on about I'd done and asked questions about her. I have some more advice, she said. Live your life. Be wild, take chances, do what you please. (Rob said, I already do but I know that I still have a way to go, and I love being given permission. I asked Audrey to repeat her advice.)

The afternoon was a dream. I felt outside myself. Everyone was telling Patrick stories, laughing, drinking, eating, and only when Emma stood up to speak of her father did my tears start falling. 

Later I spoke to Mary, Patrick's second wife who said theirs was a 27 year romance. Didn't he drive you crazy at times, I asked. She laughed. "Of course. I can remember telling Patrick that he must tell me when I annoyed him as I would tell him when he bugged me. Well, it took four years for him to complain and when he did, I ran out, slamming the door. I was halfway down the block when I realized that he was only doing what I had asked him to. 

Mary told me about Patrick's last hours, that he decided that he had had enough. She had wanted to delay him, keep him close, but a nurse took her in hand and said "this isn't about you." 

It took a lot of energy to be Patrick, I said. Mary smiled. "That's a good way of putting it."

Patrick's death did affect me. Although I have my memories of this effervescent wonderful man - more after his wake - he is no longer. 

I think of loved ones who are here, who I can touch and want to touch more. 

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The night before

we left for France, Rob and I watched the American election at my sister's house in Toronto. At first, as the results came pouring in, we could not believe our eyes and ears. We did not want to be too cocky, too confident. Finally - when McCain conceded and Obama gave his victory speech - we believed: a vast number of Americans had come to their senses and elected the best man to lead their nation. 

Since the election, there's been a lot of fuss and applause from around the world because this 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, will become the first African-American president of the United States. I think this wonderful too but I am happier that Obama is smart, an intellectual even. Caroline Kennedy wrote that she feels Obama will be a president like her father.

"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what is possible.

"We have that opportunity with Senator Obama...."



Friday, November 07, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008


"They were born when I was thirteen
They rose up half out of my chest
Now they are forty [fifty plus], wise, generous
I am inside them, in a way, under them
Or I carry them
I was alive so long without them
I can't say I envy them,
though their feelings are almost my feelings
As with someone one deeply loves...
They were a gift to me
And then they were ours
Like little nurslings of excitement and plenty..."

My beautiful daughter and I walk away from the Sharon Olds' reading Friday night, arm in arm, after saying goodbye to our plum friends. 'I am not a breast woman," Gill says. "Ah, you are a leg woman," I guess as I look up at her face and wonder once again how I created such long-legged children.  

I wish I could find the whole poem about breasts because though it is about breasts, it is also about Olds husband's departure. When I first bought "The Unswept Room" and read about the split with her husband, I almost cried. How could he leave this extraordinary woman, I wondered. She had written about their couplings so beautifully so many times, more beautifully to me than any other author. 

"If, someday, we had to look back
and tell the best hours of our lives,
this was one - moving my brow
and nose around, softly, in your armpit,
as if you were running a furred palm
over my face.  The skin of my body
touching your body felt actively joyful,
sated yet sipping and eating.  As you fell
asleep, your penis slowly caressed me,
as if you were licking me goodbye, and I lay
slack, weightless, my body floated
on fathomless happiness..."

I can't remember how I discovered Olds' poetry but I bought her books one by one as they first appeared on shelves. I love how the body is her reference point. She read at the Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival another year - I can't remember the date - and she read about sitting on a toilet watching her menstrual blood making beautiful patterns in the water. My head spun. I had never thought of menstruation as being beautiful. But forever after I did. 

Friday was such a good evening. I would have liked to buy Olds' new book but the lineup was too long and I hate lineups and I tell myself that I will pick up the book this week before leaving for France. 

(Another reason I love Olds is her politics. The young poet who introduced the author the other night mentioned her open letter to Laura Bush. It's worth reading.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I don't know what to do with myself. 

Yesterday I booked our tickets back to France with a stopover in Toronto to attend the celebration of a friend's life: Patrick Spence-Thomas . His son Richard has created a blog so friends can leave "Patrick stories". (The number grows daily. He was a much loved man.) Richard has also included a selection of his father's readings, including Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

We leave for Toronto November 1st. On the 5th, we leave from Toronto for France. Rob will see his transformed house for the first time. 

This has been a sad week. The day after Patrick died, my friend Helen's mother - Mary Babalos - died. I loved Mary too. She was not a meek and mild, little old lady. Though her hair was silver and she was 89 years old, she did not mince words. One evening at Anatoli's, a few years back, she was playing hostess. A man came into the restaurant and said his name "Dr. So and So." Mary looked down her nose and responded "just because you're a doctor doesn't mean you're going to get a better table." 

Mary was bossy. When she met my mother, at Whistler, New Year's 2000, she insisted my mum not toss a fruit salad but keep the fruit separate - healthier, according to her niece. When my father was vacuuming, Mary stood over him and issued instructions. 

I know she drove her daughter crazy. One day, she kept harping at Helen about a cardigan she was wearing - it looked stupid, Mary insisted, with the seams out (the style) and finally, in frustration, Helen turned the sweater inside out. 

Two days before she died, Mary told her daughter that she would be gone soon and asked if she would alright. Only a mother, Helen said, would ask such a question.


Two days after Mary's death, Rob received a phone call that another friend had died in Panama. I didn't know him well. He too was a sound mixer, a jolly hardy soul, a few years older than Rob. 

Where to go from here? It's been a strange week. We have decided to wait until January when we are back in Vancouver to make a decision about our house. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy 22nd Birthday, Gill

I wish you many moments of happiness this
coming year


that you may know and experience some, 
if not all, the riches you give to your mother

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rob

Monday, October 13, 2008

Patrick, dear Patrick

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Home for Thanks Giving

Thank the heavens, we made it home. And more to the point, Rob and I made it home together. You'd never guess there was any discord between us, looking at this photograph.  There was. I'm the worst passenger in the world though I really try to keep my big mouth shut and not to press the imaginary brake on the dash too often. 

The nearly four days it took us to get to San Francisco was enough driving for the two of us but we had to get the car back. And Gill. Thank the heavens too for Gill. She's the easiest traveller in the world and so, when Rob was driving, she sat in the front and I read in the back. 

After Ayah and Oscar married, after we celebrated their getting hitched at the Russian River Resort - where most of the young drank themselves silly and only the aunts and uncles remained sober (not always the case) - we left our rustic cabin and spent a day and a half in San Francisco.  Brendan only had a few hours before he caught a plane back to Vancouver so it was only Rob, Gill, and I who saw a bit beyond Fisherman's Wharf. I love this hilly city but it's ghastly expensive. (Parking at the hotel costs $60 for a 24 hour period.) 

Towards the end of the second day, we drove to Sausalito, wandered the village streets and then drove a little further north to San Anselmo where Carol from Carolina lives. We were only going to stay 2 nights with her but were having such a good time, we stayed three. Carol is not only an easy-going host, she's an amazing chef and a great story-teller. She also has endless energy (though she turns 80 next year.) Every night, she's out at some theatre or opera event or lecture (she gave away a ticket to spend an evening with us) and during the day, she counsels students on university applications. She inspires me to be more industrious. The third evening, I went with her to see the Druid theatre from Galway perform John Millington Synge's "The Shadow of the Glen" and "The Playboy of the Western World." 

The next morning, we packed the car and headed north, stopping at the Robert Young Estate Winery for obvious reasons and splurged and bought 6 bottles of various labels as it's Rob's birthday on Tuesday. The wine is excellent (and expensive) and I will never complain again about spending 10 euros on a bottle of Chateau de Chanade in France. 

The day was so warm that I took my blouse off in the car and rode in my tank top but by the close of day, in the mountains, in the rain, surrounded by fog, we finally pulled into what looked like a ski resort. Soon after, sitting in the dining room, we watched the snow begin to fall. 

By noon, the next day, we picnicked under a warm sun, at a rest stop. 

We are truly thankful to be home and thankful to Helen who has invited us to a turkey feast this evening. 

It will be a long time - if ever - that we decide to take a driving holiday again. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

San Anselmo, California

I was going to keep family and friends up on our travels but, after the second night (or was it the third?) I wasn't able to get on the internet and even Blogger refused to transfer my pictures and words full-size so I was unable to relate our adventures along the way. I'll try to recap some now. 

Friday afternoon, we reached our destination - Fern Grove Cottages - "an intimate retreat... charming... private" in the town of Guerneville in the heart of the Sonoma wine region. I had reserved the large cabin, a two bedroom, in June to accommodate 4, with a price tag of over $200 a night, and was expecting something spacious and luxurious. This it was not. The bedrooms could hardly hold two suitcases. The cabin was okay, kind of kitschy, adequate, but not worth the price tag and the hostess/owner, an English woman, was not very welcoming or gracious. We left our suitcases and drove to San Francisco to pick up Brendan and Gill who had flown in that afternoon. 

The best part about staying at this "resort" was that a number of the Young family had also rented cabins and when we returned from SF, all arrived at our door, with bottles of various libations, and we had a fun evening, drinking and catching up.   

The wedding took place at 1 pm the next day in the backyard of a friend's home that looks over the Russian River. The bride, Ayah, the youngest daughter of Rob's brother Gary, at around 6' towers over her mother, father, uncle, and most of the guests. She's a talented writer, singer, artist, political activist and all in all the Young and Sevilla families adore her. This day, she married Oscar, a RN, Mexican, with a kind round face who clearly adores our flamboyant niece (still don't know much about this man but liked him the moment I met him.) She is beautiful in a black gown, veil over her face, with assorted red flowers in her hair and hands - flowers beautifully arranged by her aunt Carol, sister of her mother.  Oscar is elegant in long jacketed white suit with white hat and black shirt. Ayah's grandfather officiates at the short ceremony where both bride and groom pledge to the other, in their own words, to love the other. 

The newly married couple dance their first dance to a Johnny Cash love song. A Mexican vegetarian feast is served while the champagne, wine, and beer flows. I even caught a few dances with my love and his brother and one brother-in-law. 

We don't see much of the Young family and so it was interesting, more than interesting: it was good to catch up with some members who I haven't seen for around 20 years. Both Rob and I were charmed by our niece Bijah, Ayah's older sister and her son Isaiah. And by her grandparents, Mary and Maynard, who haven't changed much since we saw them in 1986 when I was pregnant with Gill. (They are both now in their 80s.) 

Around 6 pm, we went back to our cabin, relaxed, did heavens know what, until it was time to attend the evening party at a gay resort down the road. We missed the leather fashion show...

more to follow

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Altar

The Altar
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y


Originally uploaded by Barbara Y


Originally uploaded by Barbara Y

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Bride & Groom

The Bride & Groom
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Oregon Coast

We left Portland around noon and headed west to the highway that runs along the coast. I made this trip around ten years ago with Gill and Michael, driving a VW camper van and staying in national parks. I remember the drive as being breathtakingly beautiful. It would have been early summer, right after school was out. 

Yesterday I was disappointed. Perhaps it's the time of year. Many inns and restaurants are closed. The towns sprawled along the highway appear ghostlike.  Around 4 in the afternoon, we searched for an espresso cafe and had to drive through 3 small towns to find one. Beauty? We caught several expansive views of waves crashing onto stretches of sandy beach, one seal gliding in and out of the water, and a number of trees so windblown that their trunks and branches lean precariously to one side. 

This morning it's foggy and raining. We will somehow make our way into the state of California.  

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On the Road

Rob and I left home this morning around 8:30, stopped twice for meals, and are now sitting in the lobby of the Moderna Hotel in Portland - much fancier than our usual choice but not knowing the city and not having a reservation, in desperation really, we find ourselves happily sipping wine and playing on our computers in luxury. 

Tomorrow, we will quickly explore the city and then drive further south. We have only to be in San Francisco by Friday noon to pick Gill and Brendan up at the airport. 

Perhaps later this week I will fill you in on my few days in Vancouver before departing. But I will mention that my friend Shirley won third prize in a literary contest for her story "Tunnel Vision." (I attended the ceremony Sunday and heard all three of the prize winners read.) She should have been first. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"How I Missed Those Loving Arms"

How I've missed those loving arms

I'm home. Thank the heavens. For one who hates to fly, I've been doing a lot of it lately. From France to England to Eastern Canada, and finally to our home on the West Coast. My body is tired. Yesterday, first day back, I limped around, unpacked my suitcase, curled up on the sofa and read, while Rob worked his last day on Night at the Museum, Part 11.

In six days, we leave by car for California for yet another niece's wedding. Around the first of November, we will hop a plane together (for a change) to rest in our French house until after Christmas. I'm excited. Rob hasn't seen the renovation and I'm looking forward to his response.

I call myself a traveller (English spelling, not American), a nomad who is happiest on the road with a load of good books. I love alighting in a foreign place, exploring, enjoying new sights and different food, and writing about the experience. Lately travel, for the most part, has been about house work.

Our plan to retire to France and travel the world was based on our Canadian house selling at a good price - one that would pay our debts and give us a comfortable income until we die - but houses aren't selling unless the price tag is ridiculously low. My realtor sister says that buyers are making low-ball offers - some under assessed value. We're in a quandary. Do we sell low, pay off our debts, bank the rest, and work for another a couple of years to make up the difference? We would have to rent when work is available. Or do we carry the debt, rent our house, and work for another couple of years, renting a smaller place ourselves when necessary? If we don't sell, how long will it take the housing market to recover? Nobody really knows the answers to these questions.


There is so much I could say about this past week but I find myself reluctant because during this week, my blog has been praised and criticized. Praised by a stranger. Criticized by a loved one. What to do? I would like to write an anonymous blog that could not be traced to me. Is this cowardice? Yes.

Although some may not think so, I think that I'm too kind in this journal. I don't lie but I don't tell the whole truth, or rather my truth, for I fear hurting someone I love. But keeping my big mouth shut goes against the grain, does nothing for my writer self. I know I repeat myself but I keep thinking of Saint Teresa of Avila who told her close friends "to disillusion me with the truth." She wanted to know herself. I would like to have her courage.


The last week in France disappeared. I left the house perfect, ready to dazzle Rob when we return. I stopped in Toronto (as I've mentioned) to attend Amie's wedding.

I was surprised to hear that this particular niece was getting married. She is not a traditionalist. She has never tried to please, and is the most outspoken and caustic of my siblings' children. She does not lack intelligence. (I see none of these qualities as negative.) She loves books. Her choice of husband also surprised me. Tommy is the son of a Finnish Mormon. His father's closest friend (who I met at the wedding) described Tommy's dad, Ilmo as the closest person to Jesus Christ that he's ever met. "There isn't a kinder, gentler, more generous man on this earth." Although I have never had a long conversation with Tommy, I would say he resembles his father. He appears timid, modest, not volcanic like his beautiful bride.

Amie says they met at a bar. She was to be his friend's date but Tommy and she sat and talked the night away. The second time they met was also in a bar. She told him that she was in a foul mood. "Let's dance," he said. And they danced the night away. They arranged to go to a movie together. Amie says the film destroyed all her illusions about love. When they left the theatre, she burst into tears and couldn't stop crying. If you can't believe in love, what can you believe in. Tommy comforted her. I believe in love, he told her. And with that statement, she realized that she was falling in love.

I arrived in Toronto exhausted, after being awake 24 hours. I slept poorly the first night. The next evening was the wedding. The evening after that the celebration. I went home with Gill and Durant and Gill and I had a day and evening together and although she was working, we still had time to catch up and play. Early, early the next morning, I took a train to Port Hope so I could visit with my son Michael and his love, Mackenzie. Although struggling financially - Michael is now enrolled in full time studies as well as doing web work - they are happier than I've ever seen them.

It was a whirlwind visit. Early, early the next morning, my father drove me to the train station and I caught a train back to the city. It was a glorious hot day and I pulled my suitcases through the streets of Toronto to the subway to the airport and home.

Monday, September 22, 2008

She'd follow Tommy anywhere...
She's in love with the boy

On the way home, I stopped in Toronto for Amie and Tommy's wedding (sounds like a country and western song to me.)

Beautiful Amie

So much to say about the last week but until today (I'm with Michael) I have not been able to use my computer and as I have only a few hours to spend with him and Mackenzie, and my mum and dad, I'll tell more a little later this week. (I fly home tomorrow.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Skip to My Lou

Don't know why a nursery rhyme comes to mind. My first two pages describe the work I've been doing. If they bore you, skip to the third.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ma belle-soeur et l'amour de sa vie

I woke up at 4 am, made myself a cup of tea, opened my computer, and noted that it is August 31st, Kathy and Richard's wedding day. Kathy is my sister-in-law or, in French, my belle-soeur, translated beautiful sister. I imagine that she will be beautiful today in an Eileen Fisher flowing dress with organza overcoat. I imagine that she will be happy at her small wedding, surrounded by their children and grandchildren but I imagine her happy mostly because she is marrying the rather extraordinary man she met through an internet-dating-service a few years ago. Richard is one of the most inquisitive, industrious, generous, talkative, and intelligent man whom I have ever met. (See Richard's website.) He asked me once to tell him about Kathy's other men because he didn't want to make the same mistake and lose her. I have also noticed their kindness to one another. (The older I get, the more I see that kindness is the most important ingredient in a loving relationship.)

Kathy is Rob's younger sister and although she often comments on how he tortured her when they were young, and although they are not in touch often (which surprises Richard who is constantly in touch with his family,) there is no lack of love between them. They are similar in their down-to-earth, no nonsense approach to life - could be the Maritime in them - and their love of books and family. I admire too Kath's intelligence and organizational skills (something I lack in regards to the home.) I remember when we were raising our children, she'd be up, dressed, beds made, house cleaned, and be cooking one of her famous cheesecakes, while I'd still be wandering around in my housecoat. For the longest time in Vancouver, she was the only family I had and she was always there for me - taking the children when I went to see Rob on location, letting the whole family move in when we were between houses, organizing our extended family get-togethers, listening when I needed listening to - oh dear, there is so much I could say - but as I sit here thinking about her and the actions she's taken throughout our relationship, I see she is as extraordinary as Richard. I am happy that they found each other.

Last year, when Richard came to Vancouver - our first meeting - he stayed with us, and Rob introduced him as his brother-in-law which amused Richard.

Today Richard officially joins the Young clan and both Rob and I - I say with a grin - think he'll fit right in. Welcome, good man. We will celebrate your marriage with champagne when we meet in California, early October.

Kathy and Richard's Wedding Day

I have inserted here a picture of Kathy and Rob (lower left) and our combined children.

Kathy and Rob and family

Monday, August 25, 2008

Milestone Birthday

My eldest child is thirty today. He wants no fuss or hullabaloo. How can this be? He was raised by a mother who loves celebrations. In my mind, turning thirty is important. On my 30th birthday, this young man was seven months old. I was never a baby person but after his birth, after falling in love with this child from my belly, while still reveling in my capacity to create such a perfect human being, I decided I wanted a dozen more. I had yet to discover how much time, physical and psychic energy, and yes, money it takes to raise a child. But the gifts given and lessons learned from this child-now-man continue (as well as from my other two.) I am often overwhelmed by the size and scope of dividends that I receive. Non, je ne regrette rien.

I wish him everything his heart desires, including many dazzling moments of happiness this coming year.

My Eldest Son

His Quiz

Quoting Shaw

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Ain't No Cure for Love"

When I am depressed, I wallow. Yesterday was one such day. It began when I went to Mr. Bricolage for sandpaper and spoke to one bitch of a saleswoman who refused to understand my French... My bleak mood continued until the evening when I spoke to Rob (oh, I love the sound of his voice) and then sang along with Jennifer Warnes "I've loved you for a long long time" from her Famous Blue Raincoat" and ate my solitary dinner watching "Captain Corelli's Mandolin".

This morning, I feel better. Started my day with a phone call from Marlene, went to La Place for coffee, and sat in the sunshine, writing in my journal.

Susan is 81 years today and tomorrow Brendan turns 30.

I hate myself when I complain about the little things when I have so much to be thankful for, and even though I know this when I am sunk in misery, there are times when I just can't pull myself out.

I meant to blog earlier this week on last week's village fete but somehow time escaped me, though I did write about it in my journal so I will copy a bit about it and then continue to the present time.

Susan and David whose house backs onto the Esplanade where the music stage is set for the summer fete, left town for five days, and I promised to keep an eye on their garden and water when necessary.

"I am down in David's garden, drawing water from the well to feed the baby tomatoes, squash, and onions though there is really no need as it had rained a little very day. But a promise is a promise and I was worried that too many tomatoes had ripened and would go to waste...

I had decided the day before that I would get out of my hermitage and lead a healthier existence and participate more in the life of the village (which I call mine.) So in the evening I strolled through the Esplanade, bought some saucisse and frites and a glass of wine and sat listening to the music. But I was alone, felt out of place in the chattering crowd and, after a short while, went home to bed.

The next evening, I was wide awake at 10 (unusual) so I took another stroll through the Esplanade where a Spanish group were playing. The lead singer, a very pregnant young woman, had a great voice so I sat and listened with a French neighbour. It was an evening for the older folk (the night before was disco music - loud and horrible - and this band cooperated for most of the evening with traditional French songs which moved many in the crowd - some who could hardly walk - to hit the dance floor and move in unison which reminded me of the dances I'd attended in Northern Ireland. I think it a shame that dancing does not play a greater role in North American - especially for an older crowd.

I am missing my friend Clare this summer who was always willing to go down to the garden with me and my Gill, who always pulled me to the dance floor (and made me eat healthily and regularly.)

I am obsessed with getting my house in order...."

This week is a blur of fixing and painting but there were two occasions that I got out of my old clothes and ventured into the world - both happened on Friday - and both cheered me considerably.

On Friday morning, Bedding and I drove into the country to see an art exhibit that Susan had arranged. Susan went with Carol and a friend of Susan's drove with her mother. We met at a small auberge for lunch (famous for its bread soup) and then went to the home of Bettina von Arnim (the great great great (don't know how many greats) granddaughter of the writer by the same name. The Bettina who met us at her driveway, with her floral trousers and patterned over-blouse, roughly cut hair in a fringe round her face, no makeup, looked (to me) more like a farmer's wife than an artist who had studied in Berlin and Paris, has held many expositions, and has two studios filled with everything from small metal sculptures created with found objects, to mirror boxes, to watercolour and oil landscapes, to six large, rather humourous oil paintings of figures with huge hands. When I mentioned the eclectic range of her work, she laughed and said that she did not like to repeat herself. I liked the woman and loved her art. (Wished I could have afforded one woman in blue. 5000 euros, she said. Next year, I responded.

In the evening, I was invited to Ruth's for dinner - Ruth is the woman at the far right. She also is an extraordinary artist but her milieu is music. If I remember correctly, she played a viola but now performs with a violin and on occasion, plays a small accordian (for fun.) (She pokes fun at me about my taste in music - country and western. I just have no class at all.)

The Sisters

I love Ruth's energy, her quick smile, sense of humour, intelligence, and her directness in our conversations about love and living. Ruth has also recently had her home renovated. A second house (that used to be rubble and water-logged) is now linked to her main quarters through an arched opening and a short flight of stairs.

A long, long, narrow, ancestral table is set with a long white tablecloth in her new dinner space. Candles are everywhere. (A woman after my own heart.) I open the champagne. Susan and David arrive. Carol. And Francis. We sit and Ruth serves us a seafood opener - salad with a mousse, scallops, and prawns - followed by a paella. (Not only can Ruth play a mean tune, she can cook.) Red wine flows as easily as the conversation. Ruth brings out a fruit torte that she serves with a thick sour cream. Again delicious. I look around me. There is a German, Swiss, Scot, Irish, English, American representative.

I had a wonderful day and evening so why I turned miserable the next day, I have no idea.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Night of the Fete

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm All Over the Place

and see that I must slow down and take some time to organize and prioritize.

After writing this statement, I stopped and began making lists. And Sunday disappeared. 

(I did go to market in Gaillac, fill several holes in the floor, scrape small areas caused by water damage and re-paint these areas, do several laundries, and speak to Rob - I walked around with my computer with its built-in camera and showed him our house in the light. And I watched Charlotte Gray in the evening. The line that I remember is "Of these three which, in your view, is most important. Faith, hope, or love. Charlotte answers "hope.")

I'm finding it hard to write at the moment. I think that I've left it too long. But I think too that once I get going I won't be able to stop. Is this true? I have no idea. 

I would like life to be more generous. I would like it to allow me to finish one project at a time. At the moment, I would like to have this house finished to my satisfaction so I could write. But life isn't like that. When one project is finished, another will rise up and demand attention. 

So write, damn it, I whisper over and over to myself. Sit down and write. 

I'm reading, as I mentioned before, "Literary Seductions" and the criteria for inclusion, is that the author must be obsessed by writing, must not be able to not write. Nin and Miller, for instance, could hardly wait to finish making love, so they could write about the experience. 

I remember once, a long time ago, that writing came easy, that I'd be vacuuming, for example, and suddenly I'd be hit with an idea, and I'd turn the machine off and scribble furiously. I have not felt so compelled since, though I have ebbed and flowed. 

I want to both live and write. 

Friday night I sat on Susan's balcony with two American poets - one a long-time friend of Susan's - and as Susan and David were going out, we found ourselves alone. Sue was knitting and drinking red wine and Julie was drinking red wine and smoking when I arrived. They invited me to join them and share their wine and dinner of zucchini soup, duck breast and pickled beets. 

These two women were boisterous and fun, spoke of their misadventures traveling together, and their future plans. I have no idea where the wine and time went. At one point, I asked what they thought of Sharon Olds. Sue dismissed her. Julie said she liked her earlier work but found her repetitious. I said that I loved her work. Had they read the poem about her husband leaving? No. I didn't speak of Olds pact with Satan. And so the conversation died. 

I always find it strange when someone I like, doesn't like what I like - though why I find it strange, I don't know. It happens all the time. But not with poetry. Or am I deluding myself? Or have others deluded me? It doesn't really matter.

I am restless though not unhappy. I did find a few moments of pleasure, swimming in a friends pool and going out for dinner with Carole from Carolina (who turns 80 next year) and tells the best stories. 

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My Sister is Enchanted

Sunflower Dance

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Sisters in Paris

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I am here, waiting for my train down south.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Flowers and Cake

I have had an almost perfect couple of weeks since I last wrote here.

My Gill came home and we spent most of her precious week together. Her second day, we went to Victoria for the day as I had to see a printer about a book that I've just designed. The sales rep was very kind, showed me a selection of books that the company had printed so I could choose paper and cover stock (and I picked up some tips on layout too.) She also explained at length the formatting process and all the pertinent info I would need to get the material to her.

The proof should arrive today and although I did none of the writing, I feel as if it's my creation though it isn't - all the pictures, images, and words came from others.

On the way back to the ferry, Gill and I stopped to see my nephew, his love, and their new baby - Aliyah. The baby is lovely, peaceful, a gentle disposition - funny how one can tell that even at a week old - and I have never seen Thomas and Mariah (especially Mariah) so content. The few times that I've been around her, she has been serious, rarely smiled. This evening a smile never left her lips.

Mariah and Aliyah

My time with Gill flew. She cooked breakfast and dinner for Rob and I. We walked, shopped a little, had our nails done... can't remember all we did but it was over too quickly. On the way to the airport we stopped at a medical clinic as her ears were bothering her, both of us  hoping that the doctor would advise against flying and we'd have a few more days. No such luck.

Later that day, I received a cake - not any old cake but a Diplomat from Notte's Bon Ton - from Marlene and I proudly admit that over the next few days, I consumed over half of it myself. No wonder my belly is softly rounded. ("You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." And though not really a sweet seeker or lover, I do love the rich butter cream filling of this cake.)

Later in the week, my eldest son took me out for a dinner and I experienced for the first time Cakebread - not a sweet - but a rich fruity cabinet sauvignon from the Napa Valley - a real treat and one I could not afford myself. ( I'm not whining - in a less than a week I will be in my beloved France and will just have to put up with Gaillac vintage.) This Cakebread wine is so elegant that the wine steward opened the bottle at the table and then carefully poured it into a decanter. 

Saturday morning, as I was heading out the door to help my sister pack for Europe (she was leaving that evening) Rob stopped me and told me that I looked beautiful. Strange. He so seldom compliments me that I had to look at myself in the mirror. Wish I could see what he saw.

I wrote the above yesterday morning and typed it here today, intending to continue but I think I'm coming down with something, feel very very tired, and so will nap instead. 

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Penelope and I

My friend Penelope was in town last week for a court case. She was angry at the way things went. She thought she had a good case but said that once in the courtroom, it felt as if the decision had been made before the trial. She was angry at herself too for being flustered when told that the afternoon - her time - would be cut to less than two hours. (She was only told this when she returned from lunch.) She'd flown all the way from the Yukon to be treated so unfairly...

Penn and I met at York University, first year theatre arts - nearly 40 years ago - and we've been getting together once or twice a year ever since. Why do some friendships last and others fade away? Although asking this, I remember that Rob and I got together several months ago with a friend from Ryerson - must have been over 35 years since we'd seen Allan. He took the photographs at our wedding. I felt awkward at first - wasn't sure the man in the lobby was him (less hair) but within minutes, it was as if no time had passed.

Penny's visit was a gift. (She hates to have that "y" on her name now - I think of it as an endearment.) I took several days off from my work and simply played. We went for a long walk on the beach and after, happened upon a wine tasting that we both enjoyed (first time I tried $80 a bottle wine), shared an amazing fish dinner at an outdoor cafe, and the next day, we went to see King Lear on the beach - an updated version (set in the near future) with music and chorus. I forgot at times that it was a tragedy... and I had forgotten just how tragic the ending is.

The next day I dropped Penn at the airport and I went back to work for a day.

Tuesday was the finale (hopefully) to Maggie's relationship with the slimy man who locked her out of her own house. She has only been allowed in once with his lawyer present - to itemize all her and their material possessions. But the dreadful man to whom she is still married would not allow her in to collect all. He said that it would be too traumatic for him and named me as her representative. I think he wanted to hide things. (When I asked him towards the end to walk through and see if the movers had packed everything that belonged to her, he refused.)

Maggie and I showed up at the house together. He came down the walk looking angry but she quickly said that she had to give the movers instructions. When the three arrived, they were wonderful - first of all, they took the wicker couch from the porch (that was hers) and sat it on the grassy boulevard beyond the sidewalk - public property - for her to use and there she sat and read. He - the horrible he of her past - went and sat with her several times, brought her diet cokes, and wanted to know yet another time why the relationship had failed - though he instigated the break - he must be extremely thick.

When things were to be split in two or rather, shared - like the baking dishes - he chose and gave me the leftovers. When I complained that he chose the best stuff, he called me petty - didn't recognize the projection. He's a mean-spirited, unkind, self-indulgent, power-hungry, sneaky asshole and I had to bite my tongue more than once to keep myself from lambasting him.

The worst moment was when I was stuck in the attic with him, dividing Christmas decorations. He asked why no one in the family had called him to get his side of the story. I said not a word. He asked what my mother and father thought of him. I said they were angry. And then he proceeded to tell me how unethical my sister is - basically because she would not put his name on the property she had owned before the marriage, and later signed it over to her son. I said not a word but I thought plenty... I wanted the stuff out before I let loose. But I never let loose. In the end, I was exhausted, wished him a nice life and left.

For the next few days, I played through some of our interactions in my head and came up with all kinds of smart things that I could have said but didn't. Why is it always after the fact that the right things come to mind? Though I doubt that any words would have got through his thick head. He blames Maggie for everything. He sees himself as the victim. In reality, he's a small-minded, mean, vindictive little man who isn't willing to take any responsibility for the breakup.

Before I left, I could have hurt him. I could have said that his first wife is "ecstatically divorced." His second common-in-law partner thinks he is a thief. And my sister thinks he's pathetic. But I didn't. I couldn't hurt anyone in this way - but he would have deserved it... I am just thankful that my beautiful, generous, ethical, fun-loving, vivacious sister is finally free of him.

Friday, June 13, 2008


The Way We Were

At 5:30 this morning, he rolled over, groaned, and muttered "Happy anniversary."

I'm barely awake.

"Will you bandage my shoulder," he asks.

"I didn't think I'd grow old with you," I reply, forcing myself awake and watching as he stumbles across the room, naked.

It's Friday, the 13th.

38 years ago we were married.

Every time I mention the number of years we've been together, I am congratulated. This irks me just a little. Do we deserve some award because we've stuck with each other for so long?

Perhaps we do. We've been through some tough times together and, without revealing our secrets, I doubt many couples would have lasted.

Why did we? Should we have? We both say that we don't believe in marriage (though, when we say this, many of our friends laugh in our faces.)


The Way We Are

He'll admit he has trouble communicating though, with time, he has grown better. Just the other day he sent me an email with three words "I love you" and three exclamation marks.

He's said that I drive him crazy though how I do not know.

We don't cling. We don't tell the other what to do. We let each other be. We think little of being apart for 2 or 3 months. We even think this freedom enhances our marriage.

I love watching him when he doesn't know I am watching - when he's sleeping for instance or when he's at his computer, head bowed nodding to music. I like seeing him singular, not in relation to me.

I like to think of myself singular, not in relation to him.

When I am around my parents, they squabble a lot. He tells her she should get dressed before noon, not listen to politics, get off her computer. She tells him he's inappropriately dressed, should not be working at 86, shouldn't fall asleep early evening and then roam the house in the wee hours. (I gently suggested that they let each other be.)

Rob and I seldom squabble. We seldom tell each other what to do. I cannot depend on him to make me happy. (Oh yes, I can tell him what makes me happy. And likewise.) I'm happiest when I make my own plans and do what I like to do - not always easy - especially for a woman who is financially dependent. But I see here that this is one of the reasons I respect Rob. He never lords it over me because he makes more money. He never makes me feel bad about taking off and enjoying time alone. And over the last few years, he's been telling me that he too likes to be alone - so I laugh when he says that it's unnatural to sleep alone. (I like it both ways.)

I do not want to be considered a success because I've been with the same man for so long. I do not consider myself a success for this reason. (Do I consider myself a success? That'll be the subject of another blog.)

I do feel fortunate to be with a man who is most often gentle and kind ("tell me when I'm being an asshole," he says.) I really appreciate that money has never been an issue between us - especially as I was raised in a household where my father controlled the purse strings and, to this day, I doubt my mother knows how much or little he has.)

While I was writing this blog, a big bunch of exotic flowers were delivered - from him to me, with love.

After arranging them in 2 vases, I ran out to run some errands. All the while, I kept wondering how to end this blog, how to tell him that, though not all is perfect - what is? - he's the nicest, finest, best man I've ever met. Is this true, I ask myself? I think long and hard and I decide, yes - he's unique, amazing really... for a man. Oh, I don't mean to be flippant - but I trust him. I'd trust him with my life. I guess I have trusted him with my one wild and precious life. And so I end this blog on a whimsical note: I like the idea of growing old with him.