My new book “Midlife Solo” will be published by Mosaic Press later this year. Stay tuned!

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new life, old(er) life

So far, November has been a gift, exceptionally mild and sunny – for November. Long may this last. Are you listening up there? Thank you. More.

A birth announcement: Greta Lee was born two days ago, and in the pictures I’ve seen on Facebook, she’s beautiful and looks just like her sandy-haired dad and half-brother Sam. Her parents are my ex-husband and his wife, though, because of health issues, the baby was carried by a surrogate. Both my kids phoned to give me the news about the safe delivery of their half-sister, and then my son called back to leave a message. “I hope this isn’t a hard day for you,” he said. What a thoughtful guy. Of course it’s not; I am thrilled to have new life in the family. Luckily my ex is slightly younger than I, only 56, and his wife much younger than that, because they’ll need all the energy they possess for the job ahead. I wish all three of them the greatest joy, and their half-siblings too.
Another birthday – the fabulous singer/songwriter/satirist Nancy White had a big birthday recently, among several of my close friends to officially become senior citizens. Hard to believe – all so youthful, spritely, full of juice!
Nan had a party at her house with a formidable array of musicians and show biz people, including Don Cullen, Marie-Lynn Hammond, Judith Lander, Rick Whitelaw, Teresa Tova, Stella Walker and others. Don Cullen told me about appearing on Broadway as part of the replacement cast for Beyond the Fringe, and about spending the afternoon recently with John Cleese. Teresa Tova had just come from a performance and was headed to a gig in New York.
One of the many treats of the night was discovering the next generation, young singer/songwriters coming along nicely, including Nancy’s daughter Suzy, who sings with not one but two bands. When the show part of the evening came along – there were two mikes and an electric piano, and the kitchen lights seemed to shine more brightly on the set – it was thrilling when Nancy and Suzy sang together. Nan’s other musician daughter was in Dublin on a gig. Hooray for those musical genes.
Guests performed. Nan’s ex-husband Doug Wilde played the accordion on one number. Stella Walker walked to the mike and said, “First, a few words. Gerbil,” she said. “Tea bag. Forensic accounting.” And then she did a hilarious version of one of Nan’s songs, as did Judith Lander – a musical account of Francois Mitterand’s last meal of a rare songbird. I did my part, standing up to tell the now-famous cheese tray story which involves me and Nancy 35 years ago and can be found on this website under Podcasts. It’s a funny story about youthful excess. Now sadly in the distant past. Or not so sadly.
Nancy did a delicious assortment of her own compositions accompanied by Bob Johnston, whose children are also, of course, musicians, one in a band with Suzy. Nan sang about the “free-floating anxiety” that keeps us awake at night, about the takeover of Canada by American money which ended with a tribute to the “u” in honour. Such passionate intelligence and wit behind that strong, clear voice. Long may Nancy reign and her dynasty continue.
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A dear friend for nearly forty years, Patsy on Gabriola Island, responded to my musings about death with musings of her own. I had talked about my image of the end: toppling off the conveyor belt into the cold and dark. Patsy, a poet in her own right, wrote:

The shadow side brings each detail, each moment, into focus: without these reminders of the impermanence and fragility of this life, we might never learn to pay attention, to feel gratitude, to honour the interconnectedness of every every every thing, the “ten thousand things” as the ancient Chinese buddhists put it. You use the expression “the cold and dark” – but is a deer dark? is a tree? is a bird? Who is to say that their energy is not simply human energy transformed? Here is Ikkyu’s “death poem” which always makes me smile:

I won’t die.

I’m not going anywhere,

I’ll be here.

But don’t ask me anything.

I won’t answer.

Ikkyu (1394 – 1481)

Maybe he understands something that goes beyond the surface – a way of knowing that we will come to that is full of light and the warmth of compassion. I’m not asking you to believe in Heaven, or God, or Magic, or the Occult, or even the person called the Buddha. Just to let your heart/mind open to the possibilities. Shadows are not always dark and empty.

I promise to keep my heart/mind open to the possibilities. What a blessing to have such friends. And that November, too, is not always dark and empty.

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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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A new book by Beth Kaplan, published by Mosaic Press – “Midlife Solo”

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