Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Babes AGM 2017

What a fantastic AGM! The first time Nicki hosted was 2007. Early days there were many late nights, and way too much food and drink. As we grow older we are more relaxed and there is a bit less excess. This year we went in June instead of May, so the trilliums weren't out yet, but the lake was warm and we were able to take a plunge under blue skies.

Great food! A lovely brunch at Louise's and dinner that included Liz' Morrocan Chicken with spices from Marakesh, and Laura's home baked bread and dessert. 

I drove up this year as my intent was to leave early for a Wang Dang Doodle Ukulele meet-up on Toronto Island. Unfortunately a flat tire delayed my departure. My "donut" spare is only good up to speeds of 80 km, so I took backroads all the back from Haliburton. It was mostly an enjoyable drive, very scenic. I also led a few parades, and there was lots of honking!! Those stuck behind me really seemed to appreciate the fact I was protecting them from any speed traps that may lay ahead.

Book Babes Booklist 2017-2018

Sept: Are you somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolian (Virginia)
October: The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Laura)
November: Martin Sloan by Michael Redhill (Nicki)
December: Are we Smart Enough to Know how Smart Animals are? by Frans deWaal (Nicolette)
January: The Wilds Oats Project, by Robin Ronaldo (Liz)
February: Poetry night (Pat)
March: Seven Stones to Stand or Fall... Short stories by Diana Gabaldon (Debra)
April: Canada Reads choices (Diane)
May: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Miriam)
June: Still Life by Louise Penny (Louise)

Honourable Mentions
  • Crooked letter, Crooked letter by Tom Franklin 
  • The Children's Act by Ian McEwan 
  • The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphries 
  • Slouching towards Bethlehem - Collection by Joan Didion 
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben 
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See 
  • Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Griffin Poetry Prize

Liz and I went to the readings of the shortlisted poets this year and heard seven of the world's best. The voice that I most connected with was Alice Oswald's - both for content and timbre. When the winners were announced the following evening, she had captured the International category.

This is one of the poems she read:

A Short Story of Falling

Related Poem Content Details

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water's wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

Heliconian Series 2016 / 2017

Every time I go to a Heliconian lecture I learn something new.

The organizers line up great lecturers, authors and books, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what's in store next year.

Tues, Sep 13Sandra MartinSandra MartinA Good Death
Tues, Oct 25Peter BehrensPeter BehrensCarry Me
Tues, Nov 22Kim ThuyKim ThuyMan
Tues, Jan 10Ian BrownIan BrownSixty
Tues, Feb 7Terry FallisTerry FallisPoles Apart
Tues, Mar 7Nazneen SheikhNazneen SheikhThe Place of Shining Light
Tues, Apr 18Cecilia EkbackCecilia EkbackWolf Winter
Tues, May 9Suanne KelmanAnthony MarraThe Tsar of Love and Techno
Tues, Jun 6Ann Y K ChoiAnn Y K ChoiKay’s Lucky Coin Variety
Sandra Martin spoke about the struggle of many who are diagnosed with incurable and painful diseases. Individuals and families suffer under the burden of costs and intolerable pain. Canada has made some changes in Right to Die legislation many see as progress, some see as timid, and others see as chilling. If you suffer with an incurable disease, the debate becomes less theoretical. Even after legislative changes, many people leave the country for assisted deaths and others plead unsuccessfully for an end to their suffering.

Peter Behrens spoke about concentration camps in England during the second world war, something I'd never heard of before. And at the end of the war, many Germans were deported, even though they didn't speak or write any German whatsoever. The author drew on his own family history to create the work of fiction, Carry Me

Man was such a lyrical book, thin, but very 'heavy' in its themes. What a surprise to see Kim Thuy present. She was hilarious in recounting events in the story and could have done stand-up with her bitter-sweet humour. Such a contrast. The same stories but with such different flavours.

Sheikh was interesting to hear, because she spoke of optioning the book and poking international producers with suggestions for directors and actors. From Afghanistan to Pakistan, the novel braids the story of three men in the pursuit of a stolen Buddhist statue. The author was quite a character herself, with a flair for the dramatic and an air of privilege. I'm more inclined to read her memoir than the novel.

Wolf Winter was a fabulous story. The blunt ending frustrated me and delighted at the same time. I was so looking forward to seeing Cecilia Ekback, but she opted out of the arrangement, and organizers looked for a substitute. We were lucky to have Margaret Cannon, the mystery writing critic at the Globe and Mail step in. Although she liked the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she didn't appreciate its sequel and refuses to read any book with 'the girl' as part of its title. Margaret reads at least five books a week in order to produce her monthly reviews, and is well qualified to set the novel in context. Her verdict is that Ekback's debut novel reveals an astonishing talent.

Suanne Kelman was the guest lecturer for  the Tsar of Love and Techno, and played the music tracks referenced in the book. This was a first for me at the Heliconian. I really appreciated the effort and thought of the many books I read that reference music - how fun it would be to find or make a playlist to add another dimension to the experience.

Ann Y K Choi was charming. I really liked the book Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety.  Choi revealed her struggles with depression, and how therapists encouraged her to write as a way to heal herself. She grew up hating being Korean but is now learning to reclaim her heritage. At the Korean Authors' Association, she needed a translator because her Korean was so poor, so now she is trying to learn to speak the language she spurned in her childhood. She recently found herself in a Korean language class surrounded by young white kids who wanted to learn Korean because it was 'cool,'  and couldn't believe how times had changed. Her editor, Phyllis Bruce, had come to offer support and sat in the audience. Bruce is a recipient of the Order of Canada and has edited many outstanding novels - she even had her own imprint at Simon and Schuster and was a publisher at Harper Collins. Which makes me want to explore the Bruce's titles all the more....

This year, I was especially looking forward to hearing Ian Brown and Terry Fallis. In fact, they were the reason I chose the Tuesday night series. Unfortunately, those were the two nights I had to miss. For Poles Apart, Rob and I were in Hawaii, and at Sixty, I had a work engagement. Rob ended up going to see Ian Brown as Kaarina's date, and took my copy of the book for Ian to sign. Rob also ended up being my date on two other occasions... I got a kick out of seeing him in this hall of older women and seeing them sneak a sideways glance.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Full Honey Moon - June 2017

The full Moon for June 2017 is a being called a “minimoon” because it will appear as the smallest Moon of the year as it’s furthest from Earth. What will be more apparent is that it’s the lowest Moon of the year. Because of that, it’s color may look amber-colored so it will truly appear as the “Honey Moon” that’s also a common name for this month’s Moon. Farmer's Almanac

officially full June 9, 9:10 a.m.

illustration design: Enkel Dika and Evan Ferstenfeld

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sailpast 2017

The sun was shining and the breezes were light. The temperature was a bit cool, and everyone looked fresh in their blue and white.

Rob was Master of Ceremonies and his speech was a great mix of humour and ceremony. Of course he worked on it diligently, but made the whole thing look effortless.

Most of us don't have our masts up as the water is still covering the docks and preventing power being turned on to the slips and mast crane.

This year, it was the Board of Directors that sailed past the clubhouse. As club tradition calls, there were strawberry mimosas and a toast to the sailing season. Later in the afternoon, a band and cocktails on the deck. A tasty dinner with good friends. Really a wonderful day!

Sunday, friends Mike B and Mike P, along with Commodore Bill helped Rob tow Yondering over to Bluffers Park Marina, which we'll call home for the month of June. We'll hoist the mast, hopefully get the engine fixed (finally!!) and enjoy a sail before the month's end. Better late than never!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Doors Open 2017

So many sites to see at Toronto Doors Open this year. I love the opportunity to explore inside spaces you normally can't visit and learn more about the city and its history.

It was once a major jail in Toronto, but now the 152-year-old facility serves as a hospital administration building. The site of so many public executions, it's no wonder the Don Jail is the host to so many ghosts. The imprint of the gallows on the wall is testament to the public hangings, and the last execution in Canada. Although I've been meaning to visit for many years, this year's Open Doors finally brought me inside. All the walls are painted white and windows let in lots of light, but it's not so hard to imagine this place dark, dingy, and crawling with rats and cockroaches.

The Arts and Letters Club was on my list because we tried to gain entry a previous year, but they weren't 'open.' So, of course it made it all the more tantalizing!  The club's address has been 14 Elm since 1920, with past members including the Group of Seven, Frederick Banting, and Robertson Davies. A welcoming space! Although women weren't allowed until the mid-seventies, they now outnumber men. I''m tempted to join myself, and may drop in to the bar some night after work to find out more.

There were two highlights at the Masonic Temple for me. The first was the snooker table Mick Jagger had built on site when he stayed there four months in the 70's. The thing was too massive to fit through the door, so lives there still. The other highlight was a section of floor, with the masonic star and tiles of white and black - symbols of the Great Architect and the struggle against good and evil. I've been to a few concerts here, and always enjoyed the vibe, but didn't realize there was so much more here on the upper levels. The current inhabitant, a tech company opened it up for the day. Murals from previous tenants Much Music and CTV still colour the walls.

My niece Emma was baptised at St John's Church Norway, also known as St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church, but I haven't been back siince. We drive by the stately Kingston Road landmark frequently. Perched high on a hill, it becomes a metaphor for the humble to approach a state of grace as they climb upward. Beautiful stained glass windows on the interior, and lots of pale wood. Lovely to just sit and breathe.

We weren't really planning on stopping, but as we were driving by we noticed the Door's Open sign at Scarborough Arts. A walk was in progress, but just coming to an end; unfortunately we'd missed the tour of Birchcliffe murals. Rob started chatting to one of the artists. Berg turned out to be the original painter of the rainbow bridge - a much loved landmark in the Don Valley. He painted it as a memorial to a homeless person. He's done many of the murals in the area, some commissioned like the one on Iki Sushi, and others done simply for the cost of paint.

Fool's Paradise
was the home of artist Doris McCarthy. If I were an artist I would apply to become an artist in residence, a privilege granted 4 times each year through the Heritage Trust. An inspiring view at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, there was nothing here when Doris bought her acres in the wilderness. Over time, she built it to suit herself - including small proportions for her 4'10" frame. She built a pond to reflect the changing sky and placed it outside her windows for constant view.

I visit the grounds of the R.C. Water Filtration Plant several times a year but have never been inside. What an impressive structure! Marble, steel and built to last. Functional, but with art deco flourishes. A few water fountains were placed throughout, and I couldn't pass without taking a drink of the fresh, cool water. There were also photos of R.C. Harris, I'd always pictured a bookish character, but there he was, all big and burly. His physical size must have been an asset as he pushed his projects through from idea to completion. A man with vision and insistence on investing in infrastructure for the future, I wish he could influence some at City Hall today.