a bright star among our kind

27 September 2009

Back in university I took all the available Romantic Literature classes. These classes were recommended to me because they were being taught by the engaging and eminent Canadian author Alistair McLeod. But I came to fall in love with the Romantics; their explorations of the human spirit and beauty and ways of seeing, and innovative ways of exploring art. These were my kind of people.

As anyone might, I was fascinated with John Keats and what he managed to achieve in his young life. How does one become one of the greatest of all poets in a mere 26 years on the planet? Art like this – seemingly out of nowhere and of such immense skill and richness is what makes me believe in a higher power.  And what would he have achieved if his experience and view upon the world had ripened with maturity?

One of the papers I wrote at the time was a comparative study of Keats’ “Bright Star” and that of another lesser known poet (my apologies to him but I can’t remember who it was). I came to love that poem, and have reprinted it in my online journals more than once.

That winter I became very ill with a rotten flu which sent me to bed for days, and it was one of those nights in bed when a ghost who lived in our house at the time manifested himself to me in human form. Up until then my girls and I had experienced his presence in a number of ways, most notably when he knocked things off the plate rail in the dining room. But it was not until I was awakened one night that I actually saw the ghost, as I rolled over and opened my eyes to see him hesitate for a moment before he walked into my closet. I nicknamed him John Keats then, as I’d been studying the poet in bed while I was confined there.

Of course the ghost was not John Keats – as I’m sure the furthest he’d ever travelled was Italy where he died. But he was so ingrained in my consciousness during those weeks that it seemed the natural name for the otherwordly fella who’d decided to hang around in the sick room. The ghost actually looked more like Johnny Cash, but he was alive at the time and naming him after a dead poet seemed much more appropriate.

All that is why I’m really looking forward to seeing Jane Campion’s new movie “Bright Star” about Keats and his love affair with Fanny Brawne, the inspiration for that poem. I think it might be a good time to take our poet back off the bookshelf and revisit his notions of inspiration and beauty with a perspective some seventeen years or so have given me.


long hugs

25 September 2009

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a small town, but there is something remarkable about this sustained bond between people that seemed to rematerialize like a magic thread after thirty years of carrying on lives apart from one another.  For a few of those folks I reunited with last weekend, it was a given – we’ve been tending those old friendships all along, and seeing them was the main reason I went to the class reunion. But what I have also been relishing and enjoying since coming home the other day is the feeling of being recognised and welcomed and cared for by people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in all or most of those thirty years.

Sometimes you had to look at a nametag because a person had changed so.  Which this particular writer couldn’t do gracefully or surreptitiously because she couldn’t read the darn things without pulling out her glasses.  Most often when the recognition took hold though, even if it was delayed, the person stood before me as a bright and shining testament to a life lived in another time; a life that eventually led me to this one.  And there were still things to talk about.  I still felt pleased when boys flirted with me.  The prettiest girl then is still the prettiest girl now, and the funniest girl then is still the funniest girl now.  And the hugs and handshakes were natural and welcome.

One of the reasons I looked forward to the event was because I’m proud of the person I’ve come to be, and was glad to share it. Sure, thirty years gave me as many pounds on the scale, and various lines and sags, but the things those thirty years gave me outweigh those many times over: wisdom and growth and knowledge and confidence and experience and two wonderful daughters.  And I can’t describe how gratifying it was to see how all those things transformed my long-haired, jeans-clad teenage comrades from a million years ago.  That’s what I cherished in each of those new/old faces because with every year and its trials, successes, missteps, joys, failures and challenges, they are lovelier and handsomer and stronger and sexier and smarter and more beautiful than they were at 18. 

And that’s a gift I’ll carry around in my pocket for the next thirty years – or at least until the fortieth.

blogging on a train

19 September 2009

2009_0919BloggingOnTrain0002CompressedAs I was confirming my train time this morning, I see Via Rail is offering free WIFI due to problems with the satellite.  Why WIFI has to cost anything anywhere is beyond me, but I see it as a good opportunity to catch up on the blog and to get introspective about my destination.

Tonight is my class reunion.  It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen some of these people.  A few of them are still part of my life.  I probably wouldn’t have been on the organizing committee for this thing.  Mainly because I don’t like organizing things.  But also because the relationships that I’ve continued with those few friends – my “peeps” – have grown and evolved over the years.  We’re not sitting where we were back in 1979; we’ve built lives and changed and matured (I hope) and got wiser.  And all that with each other.

These lifelong friends, who I love from the bottom of my heart, have not seen me down in this part of the province in years, and for that I really suck.  And you know what?  When I see them tonight they’ll love me as much as they ever did, and they’ll take me into their homes and feed me and give me wine and much pleasure and joy in their company.  It shouldn’t have taken a thirty year class reunion to get me down here.

High school had some defining moments.  But lots of moments were defining in my twenties.  And thirties.  And forties.  Now that I think about it, each decade brings more defining moments than the last.  While I’m not against any reunion for the sake of a reunion, I must state that I’m perfectly happy to have moved on.  I get as nostalgic as everyone else does and I love to travel back in time and visit once in awhile, usually by way of a really good song. But I don’t need to relive it.  I’m perfectly happy where I am.

I did connect with one of those high school friends last year.  The phenom facebook is good for some things; turns out Monica and I are practically neighbours, and now we have re-established a friendship all over again.  What we discovered when we first hooked up was that nothing changes.  The connections remain. We are still the same people inside, and thirty years later it’s recognisable. 

So yes, it I am really happy about being able to see the old group of gals tonight (and our honorary gal Donald).  And I’m sure the connections will remain, and during the planned parties over the next few days there’ll be lots of stories and lots of laughs and probably a few tears.  And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. 

And going into this party tonight will be me at 48.  Happy, in like with myself, and showing off pictures of gorgeous daughters.  At 48, I’m pleased to say, I’m way cooler than I was at 18.  And no one will be happier about that than my peeps.

Last Sunday Cathy and I had really great “sister date.”  We met up downtown at the Harbourfront Centre where Nick Hornby was reading from his latest novel Juliet, Naked and was interviewed by the Globe and Mail’s Carl Wilson.  We both enjoyed the reading, thinking the newest novel will feature more of his really insightful characterizations with their idiosyncrasies and questionable judgement/actions/maturity that is so smack on to many of us that we relate to them over and over again.  Hornby lets us take the mickey out of ourselves. 

In talking about this, he told Wilson that he more often does it with male characters because he came of age in the feminist era, during which time there was a lot of new respecting and appreciating women so exposing their quirks and silly behaviour just doesn’t feel right.  Which made me chuckle, thinking he sounded like one of his characters. 

Cathy and I were both surprised to hear him say that he never feels any sense of accomplishment when he looks at his books lined up on his shelf (not to mention those movie treatments of several of them).   He said he looks back in his mind to himself at work, and all he can think about are the long hours lost to sitting at that computer playing solitaire.  (I wondered how many of us that laughed at his statement were having a chuckle at ourselves.)

At first I felt a little crushed – if Nick Hornby doesn’t experience a sense of achievement in his creative accomplishments, will little ol’ me ever feel it?  I mean, what are we working for?  I don’t particularly aspire to best-selling novels or anything like that, but I do feel a great sense of satisfaction in building and sustaining this blog and getting the odd story out there now and then.  But why keep going if there is never a sense of having accomplished something meaningful at the end of it all? 

But then I got to thinking, what if Nick Hornby looked at his bookshelf and said “There, I’ve done it.  I’ve achieved everything now.”  What would be the impetus then for him to write another story?  If he felt he’d achieved all he had to, then why attempt to ascend to the next level?  In that respect, I think his looking at his bookshelf and thinking only of those hours lost to solitaire games might just be a healthy thing after all.  If we lose our direction, that goal at the end of it all and the reason for moving from the place where we’re at, then why move at all? 

Anyway, the thought of Nick Hornby, famous author, sitting at his desk moving virtual cards around, maybe feeling stuck or tired or lazy or uninspired endeared him to us in much the same way as his characters do.

After the event, us sisters went and had lunch and a couple of beers on a sunny pub patio and talked about that.  And lots of other stuff, as sisters do.

kreative_blogger_awardMy new friend over at Menopausal Stoners has kindly issued me this award.  And as I said to her, this kind of encouragement from writerly peers is the best kind.  So my job, as it should be, is to pass it along:

… if I could, I’d give it right back to PENolan, the terrific writer who gave it to me.  I just discovered her blog, Menopausal Stoners  last week, and I think her honesty, critical perspective, humour and forthrightness is something we could all aspire to. 

But I will pass it on to two relatively new bloggers, Roscoe Dialogues and London Lives, as I like both their styles, they’re good at painting pictures of their respective worlds, and I hope they keep writing. 

And I’d give one to Wandering The Road Less Travelled because she’s a truly creative soul, raising a bunch of creative kids, and she’s always trying new ways to express herself and no matter what blog she’s writing on I keep following her, if only to look at her gorgeous photographs. 

And Joy Frequencies – because like PENolan, I detect a kindred spirit in her, and her positivity is something this world needs real bad. 

Now I’m supposed to list seven things I like, not including people:

  1. September.  Mellow, sunny September with its foods and luscious warm days and cooling evenings and all its promise of things new.
  2. Patios, decks and porches.  Sitting, talking, partaking, sipping, sharing, watching, sunning…
  3. Cities – there is always something to see, some hidden beauty somewhere, something to write about.  I have fallen in love with every great city I’ve visited, and I love my own.
  4. The country – the slowed pace and quiet and sense of freedom are divine.  I’m staying with old friends in the country this weekend and my soul gets happier and my shoulders are feeling more a little more at ease each day the weekend grows closer. 
  5. The summer harvest.  Eating local foods in season is all the rage.  Duh!  Who wasn’t eating foods in season before?  It’s a goldmine for the  mind, body and spirit.
  6. Public radio.  Usually Canada’s.  But sometimes NPR and BBC and other international ones, thanks to this ol’ internet thing and CBC Radio Overnight.  Public radio is a treasure trove of stories.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, I kind of have a thing for stories.
  7. Blogging.  I’m not being original here, I know.  But the feeling of setting a piece of writing free is powerful.  And when people actually take time out to read it, it’s gratifying.  And meeting like-minded writers and artists from around the world is exceedingly rewarding.  I love being a part of this big beautiful exchange of ideas. 

Thank you Tricia.

beautiful giant

12 September 2009

I love dolls and masks and puppets in all their variations, which I’ve discussed in this space more than once.  I was exploring these on vimeo today and came across this video I’ve seen many times.  Particularly enchanting are the shy exchanges between the giant and the little girls to whom she gives a ride on her giant arms.  I really love this puppet girl. 


Little Girl Giant Plays in the Park from XINERGY on Vimeo.

another bus story

11 September 2009

So I’m riding home on that short, middle leg of my journey.  It’s always a pleasant place to be at seven o’clock because the ride ahead is neighbourhoody and fast.  I can’t be the only one who thinks so because the drivers are usually pleasant on this route too.

Before that though, we pull up to a stop beside three supermarkets, and at first it seems no one is getting on until the driver lowers the “kneeling bus.”  I expect an older lady with a shopping cart but realise a full thirty seconds later it’s two fellas climbing on; one guy leading the other blind guy.

As they make their way up the step, the blind man is saying “thank you, thanks so much, thanks very much, thank you…” to the other guy.  He sounds like Dustin Hoffman being the Rain Man.  They slowly get on and pay, all the while the blind/rain man is saying “thank you, thanks very much, thanks…”  After thanking the driver for the transfer slip, the man automatically moves to the first seat to the driver’s right.  The first of the seats reserved for disabled people.  The seat where sight impaired people always sit.   The one in which, when it becomes apparent that a disabled, or old, or encumbered person is boarding, you automatically vacate.

Today though, there is  couple sitting in that seat and the one next to it, and they just sit there, sort of stunned, and sort of giggling, as the blind guy, thanking everyone and the guy helping him, makes his way to the handicapped persons’ seat area.  He goes to sit down in the first seat, and I watch astonished as the couple just sits there.  Sitting in the guy’s lap and realising someone is present, the blind guy adjusts himself and sits  in the girl’s lap.  The girl and guy just sit there and giggle. 

I want to holler at them from back where I am, “YO!  IT’S A BLIND GUY!  GET UP!”  “IT’S THE ONLY SEAT HE CAN ‘SEE!’”  Eventually blind guy is on to them and gropes his way across the aisle to another seat, with help from the other guy who helped him board.  When blind guy is seated, other guy moves to the back of the bus and we realise he was a stranger helping a blind, ever thankful, stranger. 

I can’t help it.  I keep looking at the couple; who are still giggling, nervous and sheepish.  And I think what a shame that nobody ever taught them to give up a seat for a blind guy.    

And I hope they don’t always have to sit in the seats they’re sitting in.