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.