Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ryerson class full

Work starts soon - hard as it is to believe. Work, what's work? Wait, this is from the woman who was at a cottage with a one-year old and a four-year old. Believe me, that was work.

Labour Day on Monday, and the following Monday, back at it. And here's the news from Ryerson: my class is already full. Yes, a week and a half before term begins, there are already 18 people registered, which is the maximum.

So if you wanted to take my class, I'm sorry, you're too late. Here are 3 options:

1. Check out my day class at U of T: Life Stories, Tuesdays 12.30 to 3, starting October 4.
2. Wait until next term at Ryerson, starting in January, and register EARLY. In the meantime, read my book "True to Life" which is the textbook for the course and get yourself started.
3. Take another Ryerson writing class this term and come back later.

Hope that helps.

It was sweltering today, my A.C. is broken, and there's no lake to plunge into. But there are cucumbers. Have I mentioned them recently? Mmmm. A group of good friends from the Y came over for a pot luck lunch and there was a cucumber or two and a great deal more; I'm still recuperating.

Life is full. I am not going to reflect on Anthony Weiner or any other crazy or unpleasant person. Just on summer, growing things, and life. Time to go read.

When you have time, please give this a listen. It's a Moth story told by a scientist called Janna Levin, sent to me by my editor friend Chris, and it's stunning.

And here's the ultimate Canadian photo to make your day:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

cottage love

Yes, now I understand what the cottage bug is all about. Especially when you're a guest who doesn't have to buy the place, renovate it, keep it running, pay the taxes, and bring in everything it needs. I just got to swim - I usually do not like swimming much, but loved every minute in this lake - and walk and eat and read and look at trees and water and sky. Just about the perfect summer treat.
My hosts Eric -
and Ruth.

I got to kayak - oh boy, do I love that. So quiet, gliding along nearly at lake level.
One of my onerous chores: watering. Not every waterer wears the hose.
The view last night from my screened bedroom window.

And now - home. Sigh. No more trees chewed by beavers, pileated woodpeckers making holes in the trunks, no more loons and chipmunks, and a sad goodbye one of the sweetest dogs ever, Cocoa. No more lake.

But - there are a million tomatoes and some cucumbers and flowers and cicadas and a lovely city sky. Home.

Monday, August 29, 2016

O Canada - morning walk in Muskoka

My companion Coco

cottage bliss

I’m in paradise – sitting on a deck in the sun on an island in the Muskokas. When my friend, neighbour and student Ruth read about our unfortunate cottage experience of a few weeks ago, she wrote to invite me to her family cottage for a few days. I’ve heard about her country place for years – Ruth is in my home class and a wonderful writer – and this time, my time was clear and on Sunday morning, I got on the bus to Gravenhurst.

It’s now 8.30 a.m. Monday morning. I am surrounded by water and trees and rock and silence, complete silence. Though it can get noisy here too – the woodpecker’s call and hammering, the whirr of the hummingbird, and last night those noisy party-goers, five loons, dancing and singing in a splashing group just beyond our bit of rock. Thrilling, beautiful and so Canadian, I wanted to put my hand on my heart, as the Americans do at patriotic moments. But I did not, because I am Canadian.

The thing is that this cottage is isolated and incredibly quiet, accessible only by boat and on a big island with only one other family way on the other side, and yet full of creature comforts – fast wifi, for a start, how does the internet reach here?! Big comfortable sofas, bookshelves full of good books, magazines and newspapers, good coffee and great food, big comfortable beds – how well I slept last night, with a sweet wind flooding through the huge windows.

I am a happy camper.

Only here till tomorrow, but today we are going to swim in the delicious lake, as we did yesterday, and kayak which believe it or not I’ve never done – yes, Canadian, never kayaked. But then, as perhaps I’ve mentioned, I’m not a cottage person. If I’d had a sublime retreat like this in my life, however, things would have been different.

Many many thanks to Ruth and Eric, who are not only perfect hosts, but very funny, and who have shown me why people do this. I’ve always wondered why people make such a point of fleeing the fascinating city. This morning, I thought, perhaps Canada is such a peaceful nation because so many of us have cottages. Regularly, we just sit and stare at water and breathe in pine. Very good for the soul. 

P.S. I do have to add that one reason it's so tranquil is because there are no small children here. No rushing after a one year old who's about to hurtle off the dock, or a 4 year old who is throwing toys into the lake to see if they'll sink. Just nice calm adults. I feel guilty saying so, I adore my grandchildren, but there are times it's nice they're with their parents.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Woody and Beth's fall classes at Ryerson and U of T

It's getting to be that time again - school is on the horizon. I'm happy to tell you that this term, my Ryerson class is nearly full already, two weeks before term begins. So if you want to take True to Life at Ryerson, you'd better register quickly. It starts Monday Sept. 12 at 6.30.

I won't know the numbers for Life Stories at U of T for a few weeks, because it doesn't start till Tuesday October 4. It's the day class - 12.30 to 3.

Saw this, below, in an article about Woody Allen, and it made me smile; Woody thinks nostalgia is indulgent, but that it would be nice to write an autobiography. I encourage this endeavour, Woody, and offer you a couple of great courses in Toronto in the fall to help you on your new path. IT WOULD BE NICE TO WRITE THAT OUT, Woody. I can help with that.

Late-stage Woody Allen, then, is a man who gets through by playing ball, even if the sport is stacked against him. By disregarding the results and declining to dwell. “You’re probably happier in life if you can forget things,” he advises.
And yet, there may be a coda. Allen doesn’t permit himself the “indulgence of nostalgia”, but, “sometimes, when I’m alone, I think maybe it would be a nice life to stop making movies and write maybe an autobiography”. It might be “pleasant” to relive his childhood, like he does when he reminisces with his sister, Letty.
Yet writing a memoir would also require resurfacing less happy events, right? Putting them on paper. Well, yes. “I would have to go through the many regrets in my life and the many turbulences. But that’s OK. It’s conflict and excitement. It would be nice to write that out.”

Friday, August 26, 2016

Southside with You + Macca and puppies

It's National Dog Day! And here's Macca with his best wishes for the day. Be still my beating heart.
Speaking of the world's most attractive men, Ken and I just went to see "Southside with You", a movie about Barack's first date with Michelle. Neither of us were dying to see this film, but we'd made our own date ages ago and it was the best bet, since we weren't up for "Hooligan Sparrow" at Hot Docs or the new Natalie Portman film about Israel, and Ken had already seen the Woody Allen. I thought it would be about them and lots of other things, but really ... it's about their first date, from her getting ready to her sitting in a chair at the end of the night with a smile on her face. It's slow and not that great but very sweet. And in the end, if there's a message, it's that the person you choose to be your life partner is the most important decision you will ever make. We get an intimation of how she will change him for the better, and he her.

Macca and Barack - two of the best.

cucumber query

An important question for my gardening friends: as you may have noted, this year I am inordinately proud of my cucumbers. But several of them have turned out not green, but yellow and sour. I don't think they were once green turned yellow, and they are not a special yellow kind of cuke. How and why did this happen, do any of you know? Not enough sun? But others nearby are green and delicious. It makes this urban gardener sad to waste produce.

catching up

A friend just wrote to point out that I have not blogged in days, am I all right? Thank you for your concern - yes, fine this end, just busy and a bit lazy. Summer is winding down - still blasting heat in our faces but there's cold on the edges. It's my stern resolution to get to work, and I have done some editing and back-to-school work, but not much of my own - every day, something happens. This week it was a visit from my brother Mike and his nine-year old son, a great visit with family barbecues and get-togethers. Had an interesting discussion with Mike, who says he started to read "All My Loving," my Sixties memoir - which after all is about our family and he's a main character, albeit with the pseudonym Dave - and he said it bothered him to read about "Dave," so he stopped reading. I said I was protecting his privacy and he said privacy is not an issue. So from now on, in my memoirs, he'll have his own name. I gave him the dictum that any family with a writer in it is doomed - was it Alice Munro who said that? - and he nodded. True.

Two nights ago, dinner in the garden of my dear friend Suzette and her husband Pierre and their fascinating circle of friends, including a neighbour who, it turned out, was the stepbrother of Pete Seeger - royalty! Yesterday Anna, the boys and I went to see "Munsch at Play," a local production using actors with disabilities - a very funny small man in a power wheelchair and a young woman with Down syndrome - acting out some of Robert Munsch's famous stories. Ben spent part of it outside with his mother, but Eli enjoyed it so much, he wants to go again.

Another treat - I heard an interview with Anny Scoones on Shelagh Roger's CBC show, on her new memoir about her mother, the painter Molly Lamb Bobak. Anny was my dresser during a lunatic show in 1977, a quirky, thoughtful young woman who became a dear friend. And when Molly came to visit, she did as well; a watercolour of yellow freesia she painted for me hangs in my living-room. Anny is now a writer (and many other things) living in Victoria; I wrote to tell her I'd ordered her book and we are now reconnected. Her memoir - "Last Dance in Shediac" - is beautiful. I look forward to my next visit out west.

Last night, dinner with my francophone group, always animated and rich. One is a music teacher in a Toronto school who got married to his partner in January; his students celebrated with him. We asked if any of the immigrant kids had trouble with gay marriage, and he said no, they understand the open ethos of the school and they like him, so his being openly gay is not a problem. But he did tell the moving story of a 14-year old girl from Iran who asked his help to come out to her mother. The mother had a hard time understanding and only asked that they make sure the dad never finds out. We then launched into our usual spirited discussion, in French, about issues of the right and left, especially the Islamification of the world, which those on the right in our group speak about with fear and revulsion and those on the left, including me, with more tolerance. Never less than fascinating.

Okay, we're more or less up to date. Today, lunch and a movie - Barack and Michelle's first date - with Ken. Bound to be heartwarming. Anna wrote yesterday that she started to read the news and burst into tears. I don't blame her. So we need all the heartwarming we can get. Body warming, not a problem these days. For a while longer.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

celebrating Gord and the Hip

It's 9 p.m. Saturday night and I am, of course, along with much of the rest of this country, watching the last concert of the Tragically Hip on CBC TV. What a profoundly moving experience, to watch a man dying of brain cancer singing his heart out, with his band, to enraptured fans who have come to celebrate his life and say goodbye.

Here's a most beautiful article about the man, the band, the music, and this beloved country of ours:

P.S. I admit, I was not a fan, didn't know their music and even now, listening, it's not quite my thing, though I love that their hit song features Bobcaygeon - who else could say that? But I admire the courage and artistry of the man and am thrilled to be part of something that means so much to so many of my countrymen.

Friday, August 19, 2016

praise for "All My Loving"

Received this wonderful note from a former student and friend, a very accomplished woman who took my class at least ten years ago, and would like to share it with you. Does a writer's heart good. I wrote back to thank her and to ask her to pass the book or her recommendation of it on to anyone she thinks might be interested. I've had a bunch of notes like this, people who really enjoy the book - but so few people know it exists.

I just got back from a couple of weeks away at a cottage in Temagami where I read your book! All My Loving had me hooked from start to finish...It also brought back all your coaching - cutting to the chase, telling your own story, writing the truth, sharing your pain, mining the journal! 

What a terrific read. I can't believe you were so mature as a young teen that you travelled via Paris metro to the box office, bought tickets for TWO shows, AND went by yourself! As a crazy Beatles fan myself I could feel the electricity of how excited you were.  

I still want to write. The answer, I know, is write. There is some discipline in my life but it doesn't include writing at the moment, even though I know that the hardest, but really the easiest part is to just start.  

I know I'm late to the game on your book, but congratulations. I loved it.

home three days early

Hello internet, glad to have you back in my life! Hello garden, hello house, hello major modern metropolis. Happy to be with you once more.

Home three days early. Perhaps that tells you all you need to know, considering the time and expense it took to organize this trek north. Basically - the cottage is the friend of a friend's, in a good location, and, as we'd been told, on a big shallow lake with a shady beach for small people. Amenities - toys on site, grass, gorgeous sunsets, hammock, paddleboat, call of the loon. Lovely.
But there were problems, some with the cottage and some with us. To be brief, the place was not well maintained. In the sun, not a problem, but in bad weather, when you're stuck inside with two incredibly energetic children, it was. Our arrival day, Sunday, and Monday were wonderful - Lani and Maurice arrived for a visit and had supper with us, Lani doing puzzles and playing a game of catch the bubbles with Eli, and then it was painting time.

On Tuesday, the heavens opened - not just rain, but a biblical downpour. Anna located a wolf sanctuary on her phone and off we went, to spend $25 to look through windows at some empty woods - the wolves very sensibly opting not to get drenched - and see a documentary. The visit was great for Ben, though - he spent an hour going up and down the stairs to the bathroom. All Ben wants to do is climb - he is, at one, a fearless Cirque du Soleil gymnast. After our rather dispirited non-sighting of wolves, along with other desperate families of small kids, we drove to Haliburton and found a restaurant for lunch, where the waitress forgot our order so by the time it arrived, the kids were going insane, Eli especially disputatious and Ben emitting the ear-piercing scream that gives him so much pleasure. On the way back, the rain was so heavy, I had the wipers on as fast as they would go and still could hardly see.

The next two days were variable tho' we could mostly go outside - but thunderstorms were predicted for the whole weekend. No way. Anna and the kids were supposed to get the bus back Friday night and I to stay with a friend or alone for the weekend. No way. Between the musty smell and the weather, we decided to pack up early.

But also - I know there are people who have quiet grandchildren who sit and look sweetly at picture books. I am not one of them. Eli is a dervish - constant activity and noise from the moment he awakes, much too early, to when he blessedly drops off to sleep at 7 or so. He's bright, contrary, wilful and stubborn - as his mother says, he's her karma, because that was her young personality too, except that he's also bouncing off the walls. No problem when we could get him in the water and burn off some of that energy. And Ben was in the meantime trying to climb everything in sight, including the steep fence and steps of the deck, and when not climbing, he was gnawing on his brother's Crocs, my rubber boots, gravel, sticks and dirt. And paintbrushes.
Still we had a wonderful time, truly we did. It was a joy to watch them paddling, splashing and digging in the sand, these hilarious and marvellous children - discussing Eli's family of dragons, watching him carefully set the table for them so they could eat their soup. He sent them home before us. "Perhaps," I said, as we drove, "they're talking to your dad now." "Glamma," he said scornfully, "dragons don't talk."
And their mother is, as I've said before, a force of nature, the best mother in the world, dealing with the kids and producing one beautiful meal after another in a kitchen with no counter space - for Eli who's very picky and tiny Ben who eats a small amount and then throws the rest on the floor. And Glamma, who eats everything with gusto but was a tiny bit overwhelmed by it all. What an enormous amount of energy it takes to parent effectively, especially to children as forceful as these. It's relentless, like being in the eye of a hurricane. My daughter does not quail. But still, we were both very happy about the decision to go home Thursday night - she to her bed, her home set up for kids and cleaned to her exacting specifications - and I to the internet and PEACE AND QUIET. She organized the trip back to perfection - we wore them out during the day and left at 4, so they both slept for nearly the whole blessedly peaceful 3 hour trip to civilization.

But today, as I came home from taking the car back - glad to be rid of that behemoth - I passed the fire station on Dundas. They had the ladder out and a fireman was climbing it, and I so missed being able to show it to Eli, who would have been enthralled. I miss the feeling of a wriggling baby in my arms. Never mind - I took a picture of the fire engine and sent it to Anna, and I'll see them all again soon enough.

In the meantime, a mountain of laundry and piles of stuff to put away. No loon. But the cicadas, the little woodpecker hammering at the dead ivy, the sirens, the distant roar of the Don Valley Parkway - music to my ears.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

up and away

Did a solid two hours work last night in the lovely office - so there. Everything I need right in front of me - it boggles the mind. I began the hard work of renovating Act One. More drama, conflict, struggle needed. So difficult, when it's the story of my own serene and flawless life.

It's the first fresh morning we've had in a week, the garden wet and happy. I got a $30 parking ticket for parking on my own street last night, but that's life in the beeg ceety.

Now - north. See you in a week or so.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Once more to the lake

There's a honkin' great SUV outside, a Jeep Cherokee that yours truly will be driving tomorrow, filled with family and mountains of stuff, to cottage country. It is one of my great regrets that we didn't have a cottage when my kids were growing up. We didn't have one during my own childhood because we travelled in the summer, and then with our kids - well, my husband was always very busy, and a cottage was just not my tradition, and certainly not his. But I've heard over and over about people's wonderful summer memories, family gatherings, board games, camp fires, water skiing, and I am sorry we did not provide that for our kids.

So - I've rented a cottage for the first time from the friend of a friend, to see if this is a tradition I can provide for my grandchildren. It's apparently on a shallow lake, and I imagine the screen door banging, watching the kids splash, sitting by the lake with a glass of something as the sun sets. Anna and I have been texting back and forth all day - I needed to go pick up the car seats, did you pack the bandaids, should I bring the bug spray and pb or will you? We have enough equipment for a month.

Today is not an auspicious start - after a week of the most gruelling heat, today is still very hot but very wet, major downpours all day long. Please, God, do not rain on our week at the cottage. Being inside with two small energetic boys - well no, we'll just go and swim in the rain. But better not, if that's okay with You. Clouds are predicted. We'll take clouds. Pouring right now; good for the garden, not so much for small boys.

Sam will be here, and John, seeing to the house and the watering, especially the veggies. This year I am the queen of cucumbers. I am proud of my magnificent cukes.

Otherwise - my new office is terrific but I've done very little work in it. Had a drink with a student, who asked wistfully about my writing discipline - and I had to laugh. If I'd had a writing discipline, there would be more books. But I'll get back to the memoir when things settle. Yes I will. In the meantime - northward. To make memories.

Friday, August 12, 2016

killing me softly ...

For everyone with a teenager, or who had one in the house once ... this is very funny.

Brain-Dead Teen, Only Capable Of Rolling Eyes And Texting, To Be Euthanized

THE ONION · 23,513,397 VIEWS

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bach on the mountaintop

After that nice note the other day about my first book, "Back Page Stories," I came across a copy of my second book, "Yours Truly - a book of the blog," a compilation of my first year of blog posts, including my five month stay in France. My mother kept her copy by her bedside and told me it was the best book she'd ever read, though since she was not a great reader, and she was also my mother, that's perhaps not the review to put on the cover. 

Inside, I found this entry from Friday Feb. 22 2008. This was before I started to go to Macca concerts. I was 57.

 Not a rocking chair

My beloved Paul McCartney was on the British Music Awards last night, getting an award and then playing a few songs. He was wearing tight black pants, a mod little jacket and Beatle boots, he and his band rocked and screamed and crooned, and I thought, “My God, this man is nearly 66 years old!” He’s the age when people retire and settle into their lazy boy chairs with the remote, join the shuffleboard team, buy the skirts and pants with the stretchy waistbands and the comfy shoes and let it all sag out. Not the Paul machine. There’s something absurd and fantastic about the fact that so many boomer heroes – Eric Clapton, the Stones, the Who – just keep going.
Paul’s voice was rough last night, but his hair was a lustrous brown, and he jumped around looking pretty damn great. I’m proud of the way we are redefining middle age. I can see us all in groovy old folks communes, with state of the art sound and movie systems and hookahs built into our Mag-wheeled, graffiti-splattered wheelchairs.
Rock on, Grandpa Paul.

Well, that’s not the image of a 66-year old - or of a grandparent - I have today, that’s for sure!

Your inspiration for today, ageless readers - a  musician climbs a mountain with a cello on her back, to play Bach at the top.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

home in the heat with giant cucumber

It's so hot out there as to be painful - 33 degrees feeling like 39, unbreathable. On Friday it says it'll feel like 41. How terrible for those who have nowhere to escape to. I've been looking up movie times, just to get into the cool, and I have A.C.! And yet - the upside of the heat is that my tomato crop is phenomenal and my latest cucumber the biggest I've ever seen - 19 inches long and thick. Yes, I measured my cucumber. I'm going to make gazpacho.

So glad to be home, as always, but I loved visiting my American family in upstate New York and my British and Canadian family in Ottawa. I'm especially proud of my accomplishment in Ottawa. Aunt Do is a very stubborn 96-year old, and yet I managed to get us to Ikea, to choose curtains, to get the right equipment and find someone to hang them and get them up before I left. It was a miracle. Today she is happy to have shelter from the sun pouring in her windows, though, she says, she also misses her sheer curtains. Next time we'll have to go back and find a second set, some new sheers to keep her happy. But that's next time.
Below: last walk in Britannia Park.
 Discovered a fabulous vintage store nearby - Antique Hoarders on Howe St. Full of great stuff, including the Librarian Action Figure. Did not buy her, but was tempted.
Do in the Fiat
and with her dear friend Una, after our lunch out on Monday.

Trip home perfect - the thunderstorms predicted did not materialize. My son who'd kept the garden alive was in residence, commandeering sofa, TV and fridge, as always. He'll be back to keep watch over house and garden while I'm away next week, at a rented cottage with Anna and the kids. And that's it for summer travel. That will almost be it for summer 2016. Somewhere out there, athletes are straining. In here, all that matters is that the rosé is chilling.

A very nice woman just sent me this note, below. How welcome it is when people write to writers. Thank you! Fred was one of my favourite students a long time ago, and BPS my first book, a compilation of Globe and CBC essays, designed by my friend Chris and published by Kinko's. I found an old copy recently too and confess I re-read with pleasure. Some of them are not bad. (A few are reprinted on this blog, under Articles.)

I have been purging and sorting for the past couple of days and came across Back Page Stories.  My friends Fred Reynolds and Angie Hains gave it to me for my 50thbirthday.

It is as fresh and entertaining to read it as it was back in 2000 – thank you once again!

And now that I have signed up for your blog, I can get my Beth-fix on a regular basis!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ludwig forever

Thanks so much to my helpful friends who've been writing to suggest composers of violin concertos - Bruce thought it might be Mendelssohn or Haydn, Chris suggested Sibelius. Nyet. I also tried Brahms and Schubert and others, and then I said, It has GOT to be Beethoven. It was just richly Beethoveny in tone plus it kept building to a crescendo and then not ending, as Beethoven does. So I Googled his violin concerto again - the version I tried before was very slow, just wrong, and I didn't listen to enough. But with another version - we have a winner. It was indeed the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, and a glorious thing it is too. I'm listening to it again now.

So that was Dad and his violin keeping me company. Yesterday I went to the communal garden at the base of Mum's apartment building to check out her patch - she had a beautiful bit she tended with lavender, rudbeckia, phlox and daisies, very Mum. Her patch was lovely still, and a bird was singing in a tree right there, a cascade of liquid notes. So I felt my mother there too. It was an emotional day.

Dinner with the Scrabble ladies; my elderly aunt came second in Scrabble, beating a woman decades younger. She is a force of nature. When I took her home, she complained yet again, as she has for a year, that her blinds are broken and she doesn't know where to get them replaced - to keep heat out in summer and in in winter. At 3 a.m. I awoke. Ikea, I said to myself. Ikea curtains. Just the thing.

This morning I managed to get her away from the Olympics to Ikea where we actually figured out dimensions and chose curtains and marched through sixteen miles of other stuff to get out of there. At home I made a bunch of phone calls and we found a handyman to come tomorrow to put them up. Let's hope they work, or else I will be to blame, and I will never hear the end of it.

We went out for lunch with my brother and his nine-year old son, and I spent the afternoon showing Do a year's worth of photos on my computer. Managed to secretly throw out some of the food rotting in her fridge. And then after dinner, I left her poring over the curtain instructions. Ikea instructions! Nothing I'd rather less read.
Once again, all I can say is - I hope I have my Auntie Do's genes.

Went for a long walk through the park by the river. Britannia Park in the summer is a microcosm of Canada. As I walked, I heard every language except English. It's a marvellous place.

Finally - a bit of truth - why I'm happily single.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Beethoven pipes me in

This morning, tootling along the 416, the gleaming highway to Ottawa, in my cherry-red Fiat, the sky extraordinary, powder blue with great puffs of cumulus, stunning, the weather stunning, the family visit behind me wonderful. I turned on the radio and it was a violin concerto, at first I thought it had the sweetness and nimbleness of late Mozart but then it turned muscular, so I guessed it was Beethoven - unfortunately they didn't say afterwards what it was or who was playing, but it was so beautiful, and - you know me - I wept. I wept because I had spent two days with my dad's family, Ted yesterday telling me how he'd looked up to his older cousin Gordin, how his father Leo and he too loved Mike, my grandfather, Leo's older brother who put him through law school. We were celebrating a family legacy, and it meant the world.

I wept because I showed Ted the picture Anna had just sent me of Eli, and Ted exclaimed, "He looks just like your dad!" I had seen that myself, but to have someone who's never met Eli see it so clearly meant the world.

And I wept because it was the most beautiful day of the year and because New York is nearly empty now, it used to be full of Kaplans and now almost none are left, and because one day I too will not be around to celebrate days like these, music like this blasting out of my cherry red speakers. My Dad played the violin, so right then, he was with me.

I pulled over when the music ended and sang a few bars into my phone so I can find out later what it was. (Just Googled - Beethoven only wrote one violin concerto and it's not the one. Mystery.)

I arrived in Ottawa, went to my airbnb place and for a blessed walk in Britannia park - I seem to have done nothing but eat, drink and sit for days, am expanding exponentially - and marvelled at the para-sailers - is that what they're called? People skimming over the lake at high speed pulled by sails.
The dots are sails; there were at least ten of them. Check out that perfect sky.

Then headed downtown to meet someone I didn't know. Just before my mother died, a man got in touch with her whose hobby was doing research into Bletchley Park and those who had worked there. Did she know, as someone who worked there during the war, she was eligible for a medallion from the British government? So he ended up coming to meet her and sending her particulars to England, and she received her medallion. I have it now.

He and I had lunch together. I cannot use his name because he works for the Communications Security Establishment - CSE - and must keep his identity secret. But we had a great talk about Mum and what he learned about her work during the war. She told him a few stories she didn't tell me. So again, we were celebrating a family legacy, this time on Mum's side. And also, I was celebrating him, this man who made sure that deserving people got recognition. He told me about a very important civil servant in Ottawa, a Brit who worked at Bletchley during the war, side by side with Alan Turing, and when he received his medallion in a ceremony, said he'd been ashamed all his life of not being in combat like his friends; this was the first time he realized just how important his war work had been.

LOVE that.

Now I am going to have dinner with the Scrabble ladies - Auntie Do's team. She has been playing all afternoon and I was not invited, but am to join them for dinner.  I have bought a bottle of wine to help me through.

The wedding was very moving - Debby at 65, marrying for the first time; Dan, whom she first met as a teenager, not long divorced with his three grown sons in attendance. What a story. Debby owns an apartment in the Marais in Paris and a country house too, none with heat and both with her hoarder's stash of stuff and her many cats being looked after by friends. She is moving to Dan's house in upstate New York. A big job ahead in France. Dan is up for it.
 Debby being walked down the aisle by cousin Ted on the far side and his husband Henry on this side
After the ceremony - Dan and Debby. May they have many years of happiness. There are good omens  - it was supposed to rain that afternoon but was gorgeous during the ceremony, as you can see. When we were inside stuffing ourselves with a huge wedding banquet, it poured. By the time the meal was over, it was lovely out again.

I was very glad, though, to get back to Canada this morning. Upstate New York is a poor white area; there are lots of angry people supporting Trump. And lots of the biggest people I have ever seen. Perhaps these two things go hand in hand. In any case, I'm back where sanity reigns. For now.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

stopping by the woods

I'm in beautiful downtown Ogdensburg. Actually no, I'm at the Quality Inn just outside of Ogdensburg, but I just toured the town with my first cousins once removed Ted and Susan and their spouses Henry and Peter. We went to the Frederick Remington Museum which is the only thing to do in Ogdensburg - well laid out and interesting - and we drove around looking at the big old houses and the falling down houses and the seaway, on the other side of which is my fine country. We asked a local where downtown was, and she said, there isn't one.

So that's Ogdensburg. Still, it was entertaining being with these two long-term couples as they bickered through town. Turn THAT way! THAT WAY! They went together to Tibet. It boggles the mind.
Lots of lovely Tiffany stuff in the Remington museum
A painting entitled Canada. Yup, that looks like Toronto to me.
A local restaurant.

It's nearly noon. At 1 p.m., Ted and Susan's younger sister Debbie is marrying Dan, a man she first knew as a teenager. Debbie is 65 and has never married. Dan has three grown sons from his previous marriage, big big young men. I met them last night at the restaurant where the two sides assembled, at least 25 of us. It was terrific - what families do and are, people who have absolutely nothing in common coming together to celebrate love and marriage. I am glad to be part of it. Especially as there is almost no family left on my mother's British side, so the New Yorkers are it for me. And what a voluble bunch they are. When I arrived at breakfast this morning, they were avidly discussing what they pay their handymen.

There are dark clouds. The ceremony is taking place outside, on the parched lawn here. I pray it does not rain, which would put a serious damper on things, as there does not seem to be an awning or any kind of shelter. Or shade, for that matter.

An adventure.

The train from Toronto to Brockville, where I rented a car - a bright red Fiat - and drove to Ogdensburg, was an adventure too. Opposite me in the car was a family of four who did not look up from their phones for the first two hours of our trip. All four of them, faces plastered to the screens, as Ontario went by outside the windows. The boys were fraternal twins, I think, of about 11 - beautiful boys, locked into their games. They will soon be teenagers and lost forever. I wondered if their parents might one day regret not being a bit more present with them, instead of lost in their own worlds. But then I remembered how I hated playing I Spy and Spot the Licence Plate and all those tedious games to keep my kids busy on long trips. So maybe arriving refreshed, after being lost in your own private digital world, is a good idea.

Most of my family here are Democrats, except for Peter and Susan, who are very rich and so Republican. But we don't talk politics much. Here's something wonderful for all you Dems out there:


I have a pretty good idea whose woods these are, believe me.
And let me tell you something, my people say he’s a complete nobody.
This guy lives in the village.   So what if he sees me stopping here?
I dare him to sue me!   I dare him!
And by the way, this snow is pathetic.
These are by far, the least downy flakes ever!
I hear they had to import them from Canada.
I don’t know.  Maybe they did.  Maybe they didn’t.  We’re looking into it.
My horse – he’s the most incredible horse, seriously,
I have the greatest, the classiest horses –
My horse doesn’t even know what the hell we’re doing here.
The horses love me though.  They do.
They’re always shaking their bells at me, it’s very loving.
It’s a beautiful thing.
Let me tell you something, these woods are an embarrassment.
They’re not dark.  They’re not deep.  They’re nothing.  They’re for losers.
And I cannot wait to sue this guy.
I cannot wait to sue this guy.