My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

Insectopedia and more

I’ve just finished my evening snack – two toasted pieces of Allie’s oatmeal bread from the farmer’s market – not cheap at $6 a loaf, but worth every penny – drenched in peanut butter. My teeth sank into this delectability, and I thought, France? Where’s that?

As I write, at 10 p.m., a little raccoon face is peering in the sliding glass kitchen doors, and the crabby cat is going crazy, patrolling up and down inside, tail slashing, protecting her turf. Wild beasts in the night.
This morning it was spring in Toronto, and this afternoon, summer – more than 25 degrees, and tomorrow, 28. Hot. Shorts. Sunblock. Sunglasses. Wonderful. For me it was Wednesday, and so … Carol’s class at the Y. Carol, a grandmother of 3 who looks 45 and runs marathons, is just back from a jaunt to Barcelona, where for once, she was there to enjoy herself and not to run a race. I couldn’t believe it – now semi-retired, Carol so far has only gone around the world in conjunction with marathons, like the one she ran last year in Provence where they served wine and sausage at the rest stations. Now she’s back, cheerful, lithe, fleet – an inspiration up ahead as I wheezed around at the back of the line.
Tonight in my Ryerson class, Christine told me she started reading my blog and couldn’t stop, because it was like sitting down and having a chat with me, hearing my voice. That’s so good to hear. In the end, I said, that is what we want from all the writers in this class – to feel, when we hear their stories, as if we’re sitting down with them and listening to them talk, telling what’s most important with honesty, clarity and passion. That, strangely enough, is what good writing is.
Speaking of good writing, I am reading two absolutely delicious books – still engrossed in “Wolf Hall,” by Hilary Mantel, about Thomas Cromwell. This is a stunning book, full of effortless historical detail, moving, beautifully done. And it’s FICTION, yes, I do read fiction on occasion, especially when based in historical truth, like this one.
But I’m also loving “When Everything Changed: the amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present,” by Gail Collins of the NYT. I got it out of the library the other day and don’t want to put it down. She is showing, in her lucid, warm style, what life was like for women in 1960, and how unbelievably fast everything changed. The book opens with an anecdote: in 1960, a secretary dressed in a neat blouse and slacks went to court to pay a fine for her boss and was sent home by an outraged judge to change into a dress or skirt, something more respectful and suitable. Her husband, who had driven her there, was told by the judge that he’d better gain control of his marital situation quickly, as his wife was obviously out of control. 1960! And many other such stories. Collins is not judgemental, she doesn’t have a feminist drum to bang, she’s just showing where we were and where, in the blink of an eye, we landed. For better or, sometimes, for worse. As I read, I’m fitting my mother, her friends, and my own life and friends into the timeline.
I am awaiting several other books on order from my local library, after discovering something truly dangerous – a section of the library’s website called New Books. For me, that’s like handing a smoking pipe to a crack addict. I ordered three books and forced myself to stop: “File, don’t pile: for people who write: handling the paper flow in the workplace or home office, ” a daunting how-to book with not one but two colons in the title; “The Granta Book of the Family,” a collection of memoir stories by one of the best British literary magazines; and “50 Paintings you should know,” which may fill in the huge holes in my art history knowledge.
And more importantly, I have ordered a book I read about in the “New York Times” called “Insectopedia,” an exploration of the fascinating world of insects. As you may know, I have something of a tiny phobia on this subject and think this book may help. How I’d love not to be held hostage to my fears – to be able to look at insects as marvels of nature and not as terrifying creatures with lots of spindly legs that move too fast. Worth a try.
An ode to libraries, places I’ve haunted since I was eight. When we were discussing our future professions in school, I, at eleven, told the teacher I wanted to be a writer. “That’s not very practical,” I was told and was encouraged – this was 1961, Gail Collins would understand – to choose something more realistic. “Okay, a librarian,” I said. Anything to be close to books.
Nice idea. Didn’t happen.



2 Responses to “Insectopedia and more”

  1. Mary says:

    The TV show "Mad Men" is also great at depicting the plight of women in the early '60s – among other nostalgias. Only problem is I always feel like I need to be smoking and drinking while watching that show. The drink is no problem as I'm always well-stocked with red wine, but, unfortunately, I don't smoke!

  2. Beth says:

    Yes, it's true, until we see those films and shows set in the Fifties and Sixties, we forget how ubiquitous was cigarette smoke. In airplanes! In restaurants! Mind you, I was just in Prague, and they smoke in restaurants there and in public transit. Return to the smoky Sixties – go to Prague.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.


Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.


I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.


Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


Juliet in Paris, Spain and Beyond
Juliet is a Canadian who’s lived for decades in Paris and writes about her travels and the many things that interest her.