My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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Excellence from the snow zone

It snowed the other night.  Toronto was wintery yesterday, and no one was happy about it except the snow removal guys who arrived with their hearty banter and extremely loud scraping machine at 4.15 a.m., to clear the courtyard of the condos next door.  They prefer 4.15 a.m. – it’s their favourite time to tell a few jokes and move piles of snow around with a tractor. I’m sure if they knew that right there, overlooking the courtyard, are the bedroom windows of a formerly sleeping woman, they would move stealthily and wait to tell their jokes till daybreak.  But unfortunately they do not, and I have never, in all the years of our 4.15 a.m. trysts, felt like getting up to inform them of my whereabouts.

Interrupted sleep or no, that first snowfall was beautiful this morning as it always is,  the icing sliding along the trees and piled on the last hanging baskets outside – the cold kiss of death. 
Luckily I didn’t have to stray far from home today.  I found a treasure at the Doubletake second-hand store – E.B. White’s “One Man’s Meat,” one of my favourite books, in a big print edition.  So I can not only read his lucid, humourous prose again, but will be able to for many years to come, even without bifocals.  
“When a glass of wine is poured,” writes Mr. White, “a wine fly appears promptly – but I never see him at any other time and wonder where he keeps himself in the meantime and what he does for a drink.” 
“When a gentleman came to adjust a compass for me the other day,” he writes from his farm in Maine, “he noticed how good the potatoes looked and asked me what date they were planted.  I had to admit that I didn’t remember the date, and he seemed surprised and mystified, and wondered what sort of disorderly place he had got into.”
My Thursday group came over last night with essays in hand, and we got warm with tea and wine and chocolate cake and then jumped into our favourite activity, talking about writing and reading some.  The importance of deadlines; how easy it is to write with a topic and a time limit in a group and how hard it is alone, how easily the muse vanishes.  How to let ideas and feelings pour out into a first draft, and then what to ask: What is this about?  Why am I telling this story?  Does it start and end where it should?  Is there a moment of change and connection? And then the fun of the next 46 drafts, trying to answer those questions while other questions arise.  
The joy is in the journey, as I keep reminding myself and them.  This is what is printed above my desk: “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.  Robert Collier.”  And below it, the same idea but older: “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  Aristotle.”  
And nearby hangs a picture of E.B. White sitting at his desk, with only a typewriter, a pencil, an eraser, and a very large wastepaper basket.  



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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