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retrospective: old journal

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Catching Up With The Self

Well, I'm finally beginning to feel like my soul has caught up with the body that was flung on an airplane to Istanbul and back. I've been home over a week now and I'm starting to forget that I was ever gone. The routine takes over. The life fills in the gaps. The pattern resumes as though it were never broken. Except the Clarion West workshop starts in a week, so it's time to get everything ready. And there are a lot of changes there with the change in location, so for me things are feeling less settled, more up in the air, as though I have months of work left to do rather than a week's worth.

Things at my day job are busy, of course. This was exam week, and many students were trying to complete their theses to graduate this quarter and get their certificates. There was a lot of email to answer, papers to sort through, people to meet with, discussions to have. One very good thing is that there aren't going to be staff layoffs, at least for a year. After that, of course, a lot depends on how big next year's budget cut has to be. And so it goes.

I hope that next week I have a little more energy, as I do have a lot to do and very little time to do it in. This week I was in a kind of mental other space. It wasn't that I was too tired to do anything, it's just that all those anythings seemed distant and without much meaning. Certainly not any imperative meaning.

Now the imperative meanings are sprouting up everywhere.

Which is likely a good thing.

My life feels so calm and unchanging compared to other people's. I mean, that is the way I like it, but it has been a long time since I have gone through major changes and it feels overdue, considering friends are losing parents, jobs, moving, marrying, having and adopting children. I'm not complaining, mind you. I've learned that the only way for me to get any writing done is to have some stability in my life.

Not that I'm getting much writing done right now, mind you.

Lord, I'm a pro at farting around. Weekends disappear in a single glance. Just like this one is now gone.

Sophie, Zach and the new carpetsSophia and Zach welcome the new carpets.

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Did the Ectophiles' Guide entry for Stina Nordenstam. She's really an amazing, unique artist.

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Jenny Nimmo's Midnight for Charlie Bone is clearly influenced by Harry Potter and is the start of a series called Children of the Red King. It's the story of a young boy who discovers he has a magical power--the ability to see and hear the events surrounding the taking of a photograph--and from this learns that he is one of the many descendents of the magical Red King. His father died in an accident many years before, and now he lives with his mother and his two grandmothers; his father's mother is also of the magical line and she and her evil sisters have plans for him now to attend the mysterious upper-class school for the talented. Charlie tries to find out what happened after the events of a photograph that mysteriously arrived in place of one of his best friend and his dog and gets caught up in a strange sequence of events, involving evil powers and those helping him. I would say this is entertaining but definitely second-tier as events are rather too convenient and a little thinly told and the evil character's actions seem inexplicable.

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Got one of the batches of poems out. Now am working on the remaining poems at home to decide whom shall live and whom shall be filed away forever in the dead poem drawer.

last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

April 1990

Wednesday, April 11, 1990
Train, Ottawa --> Toronto

Just passed Kingston and thought of Bronwen again [1]. This trip has brought her to mind many times--amazing how meeting and knowing her so briefly had such an impact on me. I guess it's knowing her work that makes me feel I knew her. And her warmth and openness.
     Monday when John got home we ate quickly then picked up Jim Clark--who doesn't seem changed at all--then went to Nepean Public Library. It was quite a drive from John's--longer than it looked on the map.
     The library was in a new, attractive complex--grey and green--and the librarian designated to guide and introduce was very gracious. The woman who had organized the reading couldn't be there. We were in a small grey room upstairs with an attractive wooden, carved podium. Very small audience, but attentive, and they asked interesting questions.
     I was quite nervous at first, but quickly got into the rhythm of it and began to enjoy myself and the time went very quickly. Met some of John's friends, Sandra Nichol, who studied with Robin, and Rita and John [2] who joined Jim and John and me for drinks afterward. Quiet bar, except for some heavy drinkers beside us and we talked about Arc, the magazine they work with and people and the differences between the U.S. and Canadian scenes (John is American, went to Viet Nam and has written a lot about that). Rita seemed a very lovely, lively woman. She writes fiction, and just had the publication of a novel fall through because of the press being sold, despite her contract. John says she's very good, and I can believe that from the sense I got of her.
     We got home quite late but continued to talk for hours, even though we were both well beyond tired. Easier to talk than to go to bed. It was about 3:00 when we finally managed to say goodnight.
     John decided to take the day off work, and it took us a long time to get moving. I went back to sleep until about 10:30, then showered, etc. When I was ready I helped John send the new Arc out to its contributors. I sat at the foot of his bed, putting the cheques he was writing into the copies and stuffing them into envelopes.
     At 12:30 we met Jim Clark at Le Twist, a restaurant in Hull, for lunch. I felt very inadequate there, unable to answer the waitress in French. I understood what she said but couldn't put my responses together quickly enough. Most of the people in the restaurant were speaking French and looked rather Mediterranean in colouring. Hull itself looked rather dingy and slightly American, to my surprise.
     It was good seeing Jim and we had a relaxed conversation about movies and what we'd been doing recently. Had very rich hamburgers for lunch, called le Montréalaise. Fun, and would have liked to stay longer, but Jim of course had to get back to work.
     Then John and I went to the new Museum of Civilization. A very interesting building--heavy and low with mask-like corners. Attractive and earthy. At first it seemed full of school children, especially at the main, open area built to show housing styles of the West Coast First People's groups. Wonderful poles, and the screen behind with the rainforest projected on it gave a sense of the denseness and richness of their environment.
     Saw a portion of a master-of-crafts exhibit, focusing on textiles and pottery, at least what we saw. One interesting piece was made of dyed wool stuffed in slim plastic cylinders side by side to create a cloudscape. Then we went through an exhibit of Chinese culture in Canada--lots of interesting, beautiful things--dragons and inlaid chairs, and an especially lovely semi-circular garden with carved, evocative boulders in water, and behind them projected images, including calligraphy.
     Then we went through the Inuit and Dorset exhibit--too many things to look at to take in. I tried to concentrate on the sculpture because the graphic art seems readily available most everywhere. Only two pieces really remain in my mind now--one of a man holding his dying father, and a mask (tattooed face) they had hung in a small, green room and lit from the side--very dramatic, evocative, a moon.
     Also saw an exhibit of the flags that have flown over Canada, which was fun, with soft-sculpture portraits of some of the prime ministers involved, and fun things like beaver and maple leaf memorabilia.
     Then we made our way upstairs to the history gallery. A lot is still being put together, but what they have completed seems very well done. It begins with the Norse, the other European explorers, the whaling industry, the fur trade, the Métis, and they're building villages. A lot of film. We went up to a mezzanine level that gave us an interesting overview of the whole thing.
     One of the most wonderful things about the building is the view across the river to the National Gallery, Parliament, and the associated lovely old architecture. From there you can see the rivers and the canal, and even this time of year it was beautiful.
     Went to John's to rest for a while, had a headache from looking too much and being tense, rich lunch, and not enough sleep.
     We met some of the Tree organizers for dinner--Lebanese food and they had a lot of business to talk. The reading started at 7:30 with an open set. John read an Emily poem for me and his newest. I read for half an hour, then we had a break, then another twenty minutes. I really had a chance to enjoy it. I felt I was mostly reading to John, Blaine, and Susan McMaster. Last I read "Out of Speech Out of Silence," which was fun but long. Had another discussion of the U.S. writing and funding scene contrasted to the Canadian. One man asked me if there was a story about my name--I said yes but I wouldn't tell it now. Twelve or so there, snowing though.
     We went for a drink--I mostly talked to Blaine, John, Susan, and an interesting woman named Diana [3]. It was good to see Susan again, and I'm very fond of Blaine. Phoned Brian to say goodbye. Talked, and got home about eleven. We were good and didn't talk forever.
     This morning got going in time but the snow had continued falling so we were just on time for the train. Said a quick goodbye to John and here I am. It's pleasant. Snow all the way to Belleville and a kind person to talk to. The sky is clearing here.


1. Bronwen Wallace, whom I'd met in London, Ontario, and whom had encouraged me greatly about my writing. She had recently died of cancer.

2. Several years later John started BuschekBooks--and published my poetry collection, Blood Memory.

3. Diana Brebner, who later published a book of poetry and we gave her the Lampert first book award when I was on the jury. She went on to publish several more books of poetry, and alas died of cancer a couple of years ago.

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