December 31st to December 21st

Posted on 21 December 2003


The last day of the year and I have no idea what to say. It should be something profound but, to my mind, profound thoughts come without effort. They can’t be forced. So I wish everyone a good new year where a dream or two or more becomes a reality, where creative effort pays and not necessarily in a monetary way (although that would be nice too), and where everyone feels loved and cherished by at least one other.

I received a poetry book in the mail this morning. The author is Sue Standing, a friend of my friend Susan in France. Sue gave Susan the book this past summer so I have already read many of the poems. Here’s a short one I especially like.


“I wanted to become a new person,
not someone who lived in an unhappy body

like a star-nosed mole.
So I tried protective coloration:

in a field of broken-down sunflowers,
I became the most bowed, the spikiest;

in a bar I became the drunkest,
the one who danced the longest;

in the water I became the reflection
no light could shine through.

But since I couldn’t erase myself,
I became myself,

flayed and open to the world–
no bones, only flesh and restlessness.”

This evening will be quiet. My parents are coming for dinner. My friend Helen’s mother is coming too. So if nothing else, Rob and I will feel young with these three elders (the youngest, my mother, is 76.) Gill asked if we would play bridge. What’s bridge? We will eat well and probably be in bed before midnight, sleeping our way into a new year. We’ll see.

Gill is leaving by bus for Whistler soon. I worry a little but what can a mother say to a young woman who will be leaving home soon anyway. “Be careful. I don’t want to lose you,” was all I could think of. Rob rolled his eyes. He thinks me a mite silly but I feel, silly or not, if I say a word or two of caution, they will protect her. And Mike is moving into his own place tonight. He is excited and both Rob and I are excited for him. And Brendan, I have no idea what this beautiful young man is doing. I have learned with all three of my adult children that I don’t ask the wheres and whys of their lives unless they’re offered.

I feel old. But I am blonder. Gill and I streaked each other’s hair yesterday. Gill bought two kits at the pharmacy that come with a cap with tiny holes and a crochet hook. We fastened on our caps and I pulled random strands of Gill’s hair through the holes and then dyed these platinum, and then she did mine. It felt like a girlfriend kind of thing to do. It was fun.

Do blonds have more fun? I have high hopes for 2004.

I’ll end this year here, in the air…


I wonder, as I sit in my little house, if I am a writer or a pretender. Oh yes, I write this journal every day – one small measure of the discipline I own – but this is play and doesn’t involve the hard work and time a piece of finished prose requires. (I pause here and wonder if I should approach my serious writing as play.)

I met Marlene for coffee at Granville Island yesterday afternoon (Is it still Christmas? The indoor market was hectic, hard to find a seat.) Among the other hot topics we discussed, writing ranked high. Marlene is working on her third book and guards her time and still she is a little worried (my projection?) that she is not further ahead. No matter (and these are my thoughts) that she has been teaching three (if I remember correctly) courses at UBC, facilitating her “Jungian Circle of Women” meetings once a week – and I know, after France, the care and time she takes in preparation for each meeting – plus her body/soul intensives with Woodman, plus, plus… She is a miracle of energy. And as I listen to her, I hear that I must separate myself even more from the world and guard my research and writing time. Serendipity that I should hear this inner voice after listening to Vaughan speaking about closing herself away and writing a little every day. If one can do that then the work grows at an amazing pace. (Duh, am I stupid?)

Often I avoid working at writing because I don’t have a stretch of time but when I mentioned to Marlene that I had printed all my blogs, she asked about quantity and I said “there’s a lot of pages, quite a stack.” I pause here and lift the pile of 8 x 10s and it is quite weighty. I see that I could write the novel in my head bit by bit as I have written this online journal. This is so damn obvious but feels like an epiphany.

So my new year’s resolution is to 1. guard my time and 2. to begin yet another time the book that wants to come into being (and I mean it this time, Yvonne.)

So strange to speak of myself in third person, to point and shake a finger at myself.

Over the past year in Northern Ireland, in France, and now back “home”, I have received so many compliments (the dictionary defines complement as “that which fills up or completes”) about my writing and my person that I am beginning to believe ( and I whisper here so as not to jinx) that I am capable of creating something of worth, that I have done a little in this vein already. There will be no more skirting around the issue, now is the time for work.

Mon Dieu, I am a tough woman.


Some days sleep is more important than writing and thinking. I went to bed early, after a meal with friends at my favourite restaurant “Cafe de Paris”, and woke at 2 a.m. but this seemed too early and so I lay until I fell asleep again (this doesn’t always happen and I get up resigned to make the most of the silence) but last night, I succeeded and fell asleep until six and still I couldn’t drag myself out of bed until seven and then I was angry at myself because there wasn’t time to approach the day in the leisurely way I love. I have to go to the store this morning.

I have already responded to three emails. One from my cousins, Margaret and David, in Northern Ireland, one from Mahala – a wild and wondrous woman I met in France this summer, and one from Vaughan, a Plum, a friend, who attached a story that she has developed from an exercise we Plums did just two weeks ago. I am in awe. I am envious. She has been on a writing binge all through the Christmas holidays. While I’ve only had passing thoughts of writing, she’s been doing it. Still, her productivity inspires me, makes me want to write, shows me that what I think are throw-away exercises can be developed into something finer.

This week too will be full for me and I have to prepare house and self for my departure on Friday for Mexico with Rob. I have no expectations other than hope for great stretches of time to think and read and write and soak in the sun, swim in the water. I love the water. Ideally it should be approached nude but, as we are going to a family resort, I will behave and wear a swimming costume. I wonder if there are any tables I can dance on. I better watch my words or Rob will be sorry he invited me. At times, I wonder what he thinks about my bravado.


I woke this morning and instead of writing, read Sharon Olds new book of poetry. I am in awe. She is so forthright in revealing her relationships to others – especially her love for her children and her spouse. I heard sometime over the past year that he had left her and wanted to weep. Their love seemed so perfect. In one of the last poems of the book, called “Psalm”, she begins:

“Bending over, at the August table
where the summer towels are kept, putting
a stack on the bottom shelf, I felt his
kiss, in its shock of whiskers, on an inner
curve of that place I know by his knowing,
have seen with the vision of his touch. To be entered
thus, on a hip-high table piled with
sheaves of towels, bath and hand,
terrycloth eden, is to feel at one’s center
a core of liquid heat as if
one is an earth.”

The poem ends “Do not/tell me this could end. Do not tell me.”

In my plum meeting this morning, I drew a tree with tiny rectangles of glass hanging on many of its branches. This is how an old friend (now dead) decorated a number of trees in his front garden every Christmas. The moonlight, the street lights, the house lights, would reflect off the rectangles so the whole garden glimmered and shivered – more or less depending on the wind.

This may be as corny as hell but I thought each person I know and love is represented by a rectangle and each one reveals me (to myself) in a different light. I wonder what I did to deserve such gifts. I wonder also if I am self-centred to think of others always in relation to me. And I think of Marlene when she asked “How are we centre ourself, if not in ourself?” (or a variation of these words.)

The four of us wrote from quotes and then did an exercise about lying. This produced some scary stuff. One would think it easy to lie, to hide the truth about oneself, but such is not the case. Even a lie reveals something about the liar.

We will meet again shortly after my return from Mexico. I feel enriched by these meetings, these women. Writing is such a lonely business and to have a place to discuss the business, a table where ideas can germinate, a circle where we can discuss or curse our art, is such a blessing.

I’m feeling awfully corny today – hard to speak of what touches the heart. Gotta run. Rob and I are meeting friends for dinner.



I (we) have just arrived home from Seattle. I’m chilling out in my little house with a glass of wine after being squished into the Jetta, back seat (as I am the smallest although Gill, being the youngest, had the least preferential middle seat in the back.) My (our) children are so large in size and spirit. I can’t remember the last time we did a road trip together and it’s been four or five years since we shared a hotel in Los Angeles.

We had a good time and laughed a lot although for the most part, we parted and wandered alone – each to her or his preference – and met up for meals. We stayed in an old hotel right downtown near the Pike Street Market and although the lobby was a little on the sleazy side, our suite was huge though simple, clean though basic, and the price was right.

Rob and I had some good moments together – so strange that we two are responsible for the three that accompanied us – each one so original though so different. The first day, Mike and Bren got together and had a kitschy picture taken, labeled “Mikey Fantastic and Brother B.” (Bren plays a drummer with sticks in hand, drums in the foreground, Mike has an electric guitar and appears to be belting out some loud tune.) The second day, today, Bren and Gill took off shopping. Mike wandered alone, worrying a little about the women he had left without a word.

Rob and I met in Pioneer Square at Eliot Bay Book Company – the best book store in Seattle – and I found and bought two poetry books. (I behaved myself.) The first one, “The Unswept Room” is Sharon Olds’ new book (I love her poetry), and one of the first poems I read “Sleep Suite” is about her grown children – serendipitous. It begins:

“To end up in an old hotel suite
with one’s nearly-grown children, who are sleeping, is a kind
of Eden. The one in the second bed
rests her head on two pillows–I did not know that–
as she sleeps. The one on the couch, under candlewick
chenille, has here and there as he turns
the stuffed animal his sister just gave him
for his twentieth birthday. I roam in the half-
dark, getting ready for bed, I stalk
my happiness. I’m like someone from the past
allowed to come back. I am with our darlings,
they are dreaming, safe.”

And we arrived back safe. Bren is working on Mike’s computer. Mike is sitting outside with a beautiful young woman. When did she arrive? Rob is upstairs listening to the television (I could hear it when I ran to the house for a second glass of wine.) Gill is in her room – probably trying on her new sexy suede high-heel big-girl boots.

Christmas is over. Tomorrow morning early I will meet with my plums who kindly switched our meeting from Saturday to Sunday. All is well.


Yesterday was good. Thomas, Miranda, and Isabella stayed well into the afternoon – my nephew has blossomed with this beautiful young woman and their daughter. Maggie and Richard stopped in for a Christmas hug and coffee before visiting Richard’s mother (92 years) where Maggie with her culinary expertise has to produce a Christmas feast. Being Jewish, she is not impressed.

I walked down to Nancy’s and put the turkey in the oven (only to find when I uncovered the big bird that we had been given the wrong bag and the turkey was much smaller than I had ordered and paid for.)

I returned home and instead of leaping into one of the good books I had received, I slept until past the time we were supposed to return to Nancy’s to prepare the meal. No matter. We were early enough and before long we were sipping champagne and sitting at Neils long table and eating good food. The evening passed quickly. We discussed amongst other things, Douglas Coupland who is a friend of Nancy and Neils. I read a passage from his book “Souvenir of Canada” that discusses The Group of Seven. The writing surprises me: it is good. He writes with his body. He is clever but this book, as much a photo essay as a written description of things Canadian, is more for the coffee table than a literary endeavour. It comes me that if you are a well published author, you can get away with a lot. (Oh to be in that position.)

Meriah and Karyna, Nancy’s daughters from another marriage, were at their father’s and were to return home early evening. I missed their exuberant spirits. When we finally left at ten, they unfortunately had not made it home.

So the big day has come and gone with little fuss. I am content.

We plan – all five of the Youngs – to leave at seven this morning for Seattle. I am looking forward to this family event.


Happy Christmas everyone. Hope that all are as content as I am.

Too tired to join in the conversation last night, I left everyone and went to bed early, woke at 2:30 a.m. and opened a gift from Vaughan – a wonderful book (has to be if it’s from Vaughan) called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils… and a bottle of Blackberry wine from Shirley – did she know that I had read and enjoyed Harris’ book of that name – written from the point of view of a bottle of wine?

I finished my gift wrapping and Christmas messages and returned to bed at 4. At 7, I smelt bacon cooking and went downstairs to find Mike in the kitchen. He’s been hoping and praying for an ipod – an extravagant present but that’s all he wants. (Rob bought one direct from Apple for him.) I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep, could only hear Mike strumming his guitar in the livingroom, waiting.

Rob woke. We chatted as Mike played on. Finally, we joined him downstairs and he woke Gill and Bren.

We all opened our presents and everyone was pleased – truly. Me especially. Rob gave me books (that I’ll describe as I read) and perfume; Bren, a beautifully inscribed message – an invitation for dinner and the theatre; Gill, a beautifully presented, self-published book of her poetry (larger than she thought); and Mike a picture of Santa and him – an old joke – I used to beg my children to have their picture taken with Santa Claus. All refused except Mike. This year, Mike has outdone himself. Santa is sitting on his knee.

Tomorrow, Rob and I, Bren, Mike and Gill are heading down to Seattle and staying overnight. We’ll wander the city, alone and together, eat a fine meal, shop and sight-see. I love this amazing family of mine. (Auch, the Christmas spirit has caught me.)

Soon, I will walk the turkey down the street. The Bendtsen’s wanted to join us for Christmas dinner as there are only three of them – Meriah and Karyna are going to their dad’s – and their place is larger. So I will throw on some old clothes, go and put the turkey in the oven and return home and read. Later we will all go and help Nancy do the vegetables. Then we’ll eat our traditional food and sip on champagne from Halle Berry, and finish with Blackberry wine from Shirley Rudolph. Aren’t we posh?

I’m not minding this easy approach to Christmas. In truth, I am enjoying myself.


I am inarticulate and tired beyond measure. I woke at three, climbed out of bed at four and spent three hours writing Christmas messages. I then drove to my sister’s and took my Dad out for his birthday breakfast. Returning via Granville, I stopped, picked up a few gifts, and got back in time to learn that one of the women in the store had been in the hospital half the night with a sick daughter. Rob dropped me at the store and I worked until four. When I called home, Mike had the car and so I walked home to find my nephew, partner, and daughter had arrived. I poured myself a glass of wine, ate some crackers, cheese, and artichoke hearts, and am now in my little house trying to function. I am barely here and still haven’t finished wrapping the few presents for my children and Rob. Sigh.

But I am content, really, though a little frazzled and a lot tired.

My mind has been spinning about many subjects but no time to alight and think things through. It comes to me that a whole lot of people spend their whole lives running. I couldn’t live this way. Rob came into the store and told me that he had booked a sun vacation – or he couldn’t stand his life – from January 2nd to 9th. I have been resisting this escape as there are so many family things happening but, at the moment, I am glad. I can lie in the sun (or in the shade which I prefer) and read to my heart’s content. And think. And even write. Maybe.

So tomorrow is Christmas. My children are cooking the Eve dinner as I write, and I have yet to wrap a few things and write messages. I wanted to do so much more. But I am not capable of doing much more.


I have just spent an hour printing out all my blogs just in case the internet fails or blogger fails and all my words are lost. If nothing else, they provide a reference for the past year. I feel a little low about this public writing. In many ways, it seems to me to be a lot of self-indulgent bullshit but I remind myself of Bett’s Martha Graham quote: “It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is… It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly….” (Have I done this with my writing? I think so. Then why aren’t I more gleeful?)

As the end of the year approaches, I’m assessing what I’ve accomplished this past year. Gill and I have lived our dreams. We’ve grown closer. My relationship to Rob has shifted and grown. I have learned to listen harder. My sons have grown away from me and yet I feel closer to both of them. I have come to know and love my large, generous, warm-hearted Irish family. And my birth land. Also several new friends there. I continue to be enriched beyond measure by my female friends.

The only part of my life that really frustrates me is my writing. I am thinking about how to change this.

Last night my parents came for dinner. They have mellowed with age. I made them a feast and the evening passed quickly and amicably.

Today, I run to Costco and then check to make sure all is ready for Christmas.


Rob told me something last night that isn’t sitting well with me. He said that once in this live journal I spoke of his work in the film industry and if the “wrong person” read it, it may be misconstrued and he’d be in trouble. I have the ability to go backwards to any date and change or delete anything I’ve written so I’d like to know if I cross some unknown (to me) boundary.

I also discovered that google is pretty thorough. I was researching Marion Woodman and discovered a direct link to this blog. Rob was researching Castelnau de Montmiral and he discovered another link here. This scared me a little. I write for myself and only given this site address to a few select friends but now I find that I am not as invisible as I thought. What, if anything, should I do?

I received an email from Bett this morning – a gift of quotes that she sends to her friends every year. Although many of the quotes resonated for me, this one by Martha Graham was especially potent.

“There is vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open…No artist is pleased… There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

I see this blog sometimes as a playground, sometimes as an arena where I fight my inner censor who often wishes I’d just shut up and not reveal my moods and messiness. Some days I close my eyes and press the “publish” button. Only once did I delete an already published entry – not because I felt I’d said something unacceptable but because I felt that I’d chickened out and not been open enough.

Last night Rob and I went over to Venay’s for a Hanumas party (Christmas and Hanukkah combined.) Venay attended the workshop in France last summer and I knew she’d sent out invitations to all the women. Only Roz and Betty Carter were able to attend. It was a lovely evening. What do I mean by “lovely” (the proprioceptive question)? I mean the food was amazing, the wine flowed, and the conversation was intelligent and provocative. I especially enjoyed speaking to Betty Carter – this amazing woman has a novel finished and at present, it is being scrutinized by an editor. I’m jealous. When Betty and Rob found they were both Maritimers, they hit it off well but – now get this – Betty said that she didn’t know I’d be married to such a pragmatic guy – and she was shocked to hear that we’ve been married for over thirty-three years. She thought I would have been on my third “flighty” husband. I laughed but the more I think about this, the more insulted I feel. But then again, I have no control over the way others see me.

Enough. I have to run to the store, clean the house, pick up my parents, and make them a feast today.


I’m feeling nervous and as always when I feel this way, I look into my head to find out why my insides are alerting me. (The body is so wise and I ignored the messages mine sent for years. My friend Susan in France was the first to tell me to trust my “gut reaction.” And then she quoted an old German adage “Little wisdom of the spirit. Big wisdom of the body.”)

Could it be that I’m feeling too light lately – “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – and my psyche (or is it my complex) does not allow me to feel too good? Or is it Christmas (“the most wonderful time of year”) that is worrying me? I’m trying to keep it simple, to enjoy it moment by moment, person by person, to be thoughtful and loving, but still I’m overwhelmed with the making and buying of small presents, and the planning for feasts – my mum and dad are coming for dinner Monday night; my nephew, partner, and baby are spending Christmas eve with us – another food celebration; and then there’s Christmas day itself with breakfast and dinner. I’m also aware that my dad’s birthday is on the 24th and my mum’s on the 26th. How will I acknowledge these special days? Perhaps a box of chocolates from Callebaut would do the trick. Do I have the energy to drive over and pick them up in the next few days?

Is it simply that I’m too lazy? I don’t think so but the mind does play tricks.

I shall take one step at a time.

When I feel like this I want to read poetry or something thoughtful for inspiration but, as the clock heads towards eight, I know I must run to the mall that’s opening early for one small item before the crowds descend.

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