Monday, July 28, 2014

Two celebrations

Back-to-back this weekend, there were two celebrations. One to mark the milestone of an 85th birthday, the other to mark the end of a life well lived. Two separate events in the same BPYC clubhouse, attended by many of the same people in our little community.

Ian had just had his 77th birthday when he died in his sleep a few weeks later. His celebration was on the Saturday, and many spoke beautifully of his contributions as a father, husband, professional, wine-shortbread-marmalade-maker, sailor. We raised our glasses and toasted Slangevar with a good single malt.

Dick's party was Sunday. He will have to update his blog from octogenarian to nonagenarian status in a few years. Relatives flew in from across Canada, with three generations able to join the festivities. I liked what Dick said at his party, about the best present he ever received being from his parents. The gift of birth itself.

Past middle-aged, I find inspiration for growing older by having friends that are setting such fine examples.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Earthly Powers

I needed a seriously good read. Something well written, with a great plot, and layers of meaning. This was more than a few months ago,when it seemed that book after book just offered a sampling of cardboard. Kaarina suggested Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess, saying it was one of the best books she'd ever read.

Rich! In language, plot, metaphor and meaning. It did not disappoint. Arguably Burgess' masterpiece, it examines the lives of two men with very different earthly powers. One becomes a Pope, the other an international best-selling author.

The story takes place over decades, and weaves fact and fiction very artfully, introducing characters to historical events in such a way it seems a real authobiography.
Earthly Powers is a panoramic saga of the 20th century by Anthony Burgess first published in 1980. It begins with the "outrageously provocative first sentence: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."On one level it is a parody of a "blockbuster" novel, with the 81-year-old hero, Kenneth Toomey (allegedly loosely based on British author W. Somerset Maugham), telling the story of his life in 82 chapters. Wikipedia

As steeped in meaning and philosophy as this book was, it still managed to be entertaining.
Ultimately a very satisfying read.

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane, and this literary piece does it well. Toomey has been disowned by the Church, and disowned the Church, but still searches for goodness and meaning even at his most debauched. The one-day Pope has vices of his own. Ironic that the 'sinner' Toomey is the one that must unearth proof for the canonization of a Saint and chronicle a miracle.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Yoga in the City 2014

Just Breathe

"When you are sitting in traffic going 10 km an hour and you want to go 50 km an hour, you are sitting with 40 km of stress."

Marlene shared this observation from one of her previous teachers during Yoga in the City this past week. So true. More than one morning that week I had found myself stuck in traffic, stressing out because I was running late for my yoga class. And it came in handy again the very next day, when I had slept in, and was trying to make it to the studio before the invocation started.

The whole week I was doing the yoga intensive in the mornings from 8 a.m. to 11:30, and then working 6-7 hours in the afternoons. A few of the evenings were busy, too. During the last two mornings of pranayama, I couldn't stop myself from yawning. "What does it mean," I asked, thinking it might be an autonomic response to how I was going about receiving my breath. "It probably means you're tired," was the obvious response.

During the asana practise I was finding how to extend my reach by letting go in areas where I was previously tensing unnecessarily.

Then heading off to work in the afternoons. Although this meant I didn't have much time to reflect after classes, I was able to observe my reactions (and over reactions) to some mundane events. Like getting stuck in traffic, standing in crowded subways, missing buses. And to practise a bit of indifference toward bigger things that might normally push my buttons, like whether my secondment will be renewed at work. Letting go in areas where I was previously tensing unnecessarily.

The mind works in mysterious ways.

A new insight during the week also, about working with an injury, when one side of the body is well and the other is not... a useful technique is to imagine the well side suffering the same effects, and then envision it healing itself quickly. Now, transfer that experience to the other side.

from recent travels in Wilson New York

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cool summer

witch hazel
It's been much cooler than I would expect for mid-July, apart from a few scorchers. According to weatherspark,  the warm season lasts from May 27 to September 12 with an average daily high temperature above 71°F. The hottest day of the year is July 26, with an average high of 81°F and low of 67°F. The Accuweather forecast for the next ten days shows only three above 71 degrees, the warmest being next Wednesday at 76. I'm not complaining! I like these cool summer days, and no need to turn on the air conditioning. The plants seem to like the weather, too. Everything green and lush.

Hostas by the pond
Looking back over the photos I post for 'my garden', there are lots of blooms. Partly because I like to record what is blooming when, and then compare from year to year. When plants come into flower it also reminds me to enjoy life's moments. Blooms and pleasures are often fleeting.

But I love the varieties and textures foliage offers, too. The witch hazel's new growth comes in red leaf; the contrasting colours of Japanese and painted ferns; the hostas' varieties of size and colour. These greens and textures last longer than the blooms, but seasons change and the foliage withers and fades to be born again in Spring.

I was happy to share some plants with Dave and Therese this past Sunday. They've recently landscaped their backyard and it gave me real pleasure to offer up some of my bounty: ferns, hellebore, toad lilly, wild ginger, violet, variegated solomon's seal, astilbe, lily, liverwort, bloodroot... Propogating 'my' plants. There was more on offer but not enough pots or room in their car. Hope everything takes root. Can't wait to see them in their new habitat!

Painted fern

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Full Buck Moon - July

New Zealand moon rise photo: Starry Night Photography
Buck Moon.
Thunder Moon.
Hay Moon.

Super moon! (one of five in 2014)

Traveling Moon... always.

The moon revolves around the Earth once every 27.3 days from west to east in the sky. That’s slow enough that you and I don’t usually notice, but every hour that passes, the moon moves its own diameter (1/2 degree) to the east traveling at an average speed of 2,300 mph (3,700 km/hr). 
The moon revolves around the Earth once every 27.3 days from west to east in the sky. That’s slow enough that you and I don’t usually notice, but every hour that passes, the moon moves its own diameter (1/2 degree) to the east traveling at an average speed of 2,300 mph (3,700 km/hr).

moon rise around the planet
WELLINGTON = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 11:24:54 pm (NZST)
SYDNEY = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 09:24:54 pm (AEST)
TOKYO = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 08:24:54 pm (JST)
BEIJING = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 07:24:54 pm (CST)
BANGKOK = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 06:24:54 pm (ICT)
DELHI = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 04:54:54 pm (IST)
MOSCOW = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 03:24:54 pm (MSK)
RIYADH = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 02:24:54 pm (AST)
BERLIN = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 01:24:54 pm (CEST)
LONDON = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 12:24:54 pm (BST)
RIO = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 08:24:54 am (BRT)
NEW YORK = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 07:24:54 am (EDT)
MEXICO CITY = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 06:24:54 am (CDT)
LOS ANGELES = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 04:24:54 am (PDT)
HONOLULU = Saturday * 12th July 2014 * 01:24:54 am (HAST)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Truth for anyone is a very complex thing. For a writer, what you leave out says as much as those things you include. What lies beyond the margin of the text? The photographer frames the shot; writers frame their world.
Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Having just read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's letters and diary excerpts, those sentences resonate. The lines are early enough in Winterson's memoir to come as an admission that she is not telling the whole story, but enough of the story to be the truth.
There are so many things we can't say, because they are too painful. We hope that the things we can say will soothe the rest, or appease it in some way. Stories are compensatory.
Winterson relates the story of an abused childhood and coming of age, her passion for words and language, coming out as a homosexual in '60's, her struggle to love and commit to relationships, the difficult dynamic she had with her adoptive mother, and the hunt for her birth mother. Most of all, for her quest for happiness. A lot of ground is covered in just 230 pages.

She comes across lines from T.S. Eliot that offers profound comfort: This is one moment, / But know that another / Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.
So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place.
There were only six books allowed in her childhood home. When Mrs. Winterson discovers the hundreds of paperbacks stored under Jeanette's bed, she burns them in a paraffin fire. Jeanette's response? 'Fuck it,' 'I can write my own.'

The memoir reminds me in many ways of Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight, another of the club's selections. Neither mother is pleased with the books their daughters wrote or how they are depicted; both authors take decades to come to peace with their mothers' legacies as best they can; and in the end the odyssey and quest is the source of their creative power.

I'm very interested to hear other reactions at our next Book Babes meeting. This was my pick at last year's AGM, in large part because the title is so perfect in and by itself, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? When I started reading the book in January/February the author's voice started to grate, but around that time I couldn't seem to connect with anything I was reading. This time I found the memoir pitch perfect.

We had a lovely evening down by the water, watching the sailboats go out to race.

7 out of 8 Book Babes who came liked the book, but there was one love-hate relationship. The book prompted a lot of discussion that night around adoption & motherhood.

You Tube has the BBC 1970s movie based on the author's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Several of us said we were likely to read more from this author.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

I thought I'd had a 5-day vacation at Christmas, but actually not. I can't believe it, but it has been almost a year since I've had 5 consecutive days off work. Reorganizations, changing jobs, and new positions have meant putting off holidays. I can't believe how much I need a break! A sailing vacation is the perfect remedy.

Day 1: The city receding into the distance and finally surrounded by the sweet water sea, no land on the horizon. A great sail, flat water and high speeds. Traveling with Caroline who is single-handedly sailing her Awful Beloved, we leave Bluffer’s Park at 11:00 a.m. and dock on the South Shore at Wilson Yacht Club by 5:00 p.m. Established in 1938 the place has a real cottage vibe to it, a creaky old porch and lots of shade. I'm looking forward to hanging out here.

Day 2: Took the dinghies out for a ride into the marsh, tall grasses swaying. White water lilies float like lotus in a Monet still life. Then a walk into town. We stopped at a little shop that sold handmade pillows with water colours of the full moon. How could I resist? By late afternoon, two more boats from Bluffers had joined us: Kaarina and Mike + Lyn and Mike. We shared a summer feast down by the barbecues of ribs & fresh salads.

Day 3: Sweltering hot and nary a breeze. We dinghied to Sunset Beach for an afternoon picnic and the first lake-swim of the season.  Then to Sunset Grill for some blues and dinner in an air-conditioned restaurant (berry-glazed duck and roasted baby bok choy, so delicious). Running outside to view a beautiful red sky with the promise of an evening storm. Coming home, I stepped off the dock and ended up suddenly and surprisingly plunged into water. It took a few seconds for me to realize where I was, and that I better do something about my sudden change in circumstances. Thankfully it wasn’t too far to the swim ladder, and thankfully the ladder was down and it was an easy climb to safety.

Day 4: Sailed from Wilson to New York back to Canada, in time for Canada Day. Another great sailing day, with no engine required. I tried to read but kept nodding off to sleep. The sound of the sloshing waves so restful. After six hours on the water our four boats dropped anchor in “Little Baha.”  Plunging into the lake was so refreshing, followed by an Indian dinner on Caroline’s boat. Just as the sun was setting, a sailor on one of the other boats called out to us that bad weather was coming... 40 km winds and a wicked storm. A quick skippers' meeting and out little flotilla was quickly headed back to BPYC. Unfortunately, Yondering had engine trouble on the way, full smoke billowing. Quite dramatic, with the thunder of fireworks in the background. Having fellow sailors close at hand made all the difference, and we docked safely a little after midnight.

Day 5: Strolling in Bluffer's Park on Canada Day and I am amazed by all the diversity of race and culture. A Sikh family sitting on a woven rug with their kebabs, seated next to a Korean family roasting corn. An Indian family stirring curry. A young Native American girl wearing her "I am Canadian" t shirt. What an amazing assortment of individuals and symphony of languages. Toronto is not free from racial strife but walking through this park on Canada Day all seems to be in harmony. It is great to be home, and rested.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Aviator’s Wife is told from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s point of view and recounts the events of her life, including the terrible loss of her first son, kidnapped for ransom and murdered in the Depression.

Historical fiction or unauthorized biography?  It was a retelling of recorded events, but author Melanie Benjamin’s interpretation left me hungry for Anne’s authentic voice. The novel inspired me to re-read Gift from the Sea and several of her letters in Against Wind & Tide.
A woman writer is, to quote a nineteenth century  writer, “rowing against wind and tide.”… It still bothers me, the books I didn’t write. In fact, I don’t consider myself “a writer” but a woman who sometimes wrote. Against Wind & Tide
What an incredible woman: the first female to get a glider’s pilot licence; a celestial navigator; a writer. In her younger years she defined herself as the diplomat’s daughter, Charles Lindbergh’s wife, the mother of her children. Charles was gone on business a lot so she was in many ways a single parent (it would later be discovered he had three other families and seven other children). In her middle age, having raised her children and been a dutiful wife, she took lovers and spent more time writing.
For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period o second flowering, second growth, even a second kind of adolescence? It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. Gift from the Sea
As she wrote her letters she made carbon copies, quite aware she was writing for posterity. The first publication of AMLs letters and diary excerpts was edited heavily by Charles; Tides was edited by her daughter. So I am still left wondering about much of the inner life of this remarkable woman.

The Aviator’s Wife was Annika’s pick for the BPYC book club, chosen because it was voted by book clubs to provoke some of the best discussions. And it certainly did.  We touched on the nature of celebrity, compulsive disorders, sincerity, motherhood, love, grief, ageing.  Universal themes that touch all our lives.