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the hermit muses

Okay, confession: I have been nagging my students to go to the International Festival of Authors, a spectacular event here this week at Harbourfront, the best writer’s festival in the world. For years, I’ve attended readings and interviews; this year, I bought a ticket to the special non-fiction night, a celebration of the Charles Taylor Creative Non-fiction Prize. It was at 8 tonight. It’s now 10.30, and I’m in my sweatpants, as I have been all evening.

I did not go.
I threw away $20, and, much more importantly, the chance to mingle with other aficionados of creative non-fiction. A great loss. On the other hand, I worked, I read, I didn’t have to go into the cold night, and I’m writing to you. A gain. I also heard a fantastic documentary on Ideas about Canadian patriot and rabble-rouser Mel Hurtig, and discovered his website Recommended; read someone who hates Stephen Harper even more than I do.
Sometimes, not having to go anywhere is a gift. But then, I’m turning into a hermit. In the old days, nothing would keep me away from a social event or a party, a chance to see and be seen. Now, it’s Friday night, and the crabby cat and I are in the kitchen. She’s near me now, washing her face by licking her paw and rubbing, licking and rubbing all over her furry schnoz – so cute.
Oh my God, I’m sitting here grinning at my cat when I could be rubbing shoulders with wonderful writers. I’m turning into a crazy cat lady. Lock me up now. Sigh.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon, so I didn’t even go to the Y, as I’d planned – I bought groceries and went for a jogette in the sun. At No Frills, I got into a bit of an argument with the cashier – she rang up a few things and the bill came to $71. There’s some mistake, I said, could you check? So she had to scroll back, and it was still $71. When I got home, I got out my calculator. Yes, a few staples – including cheddar, yogurt, blueberries, tea and 3 large bars of chocolate – $71. Chilling.
Two nice men have been working since yesterday in my front yard – Sal, who’s from Argentina and Chile, and his partner from Mexico, removed the old interlocking brick and are installing a new stone path, a long and winding road leading to my door. (Actually, it’s short and straight, but I throw in a McCartney homage when I can…) It’s going to be respectable, at last, without a huge hump in the middle caused by silver maple roots. The massive root system is so pervasive that the path will have its ups and downs, but not like before. Follow the grey granite road.
Last night, at the francophone discussion and dining group that meets next door, we began in usual fashion, listening to the extremely erudite Jack talk about Socrates and Wittgenstein. Then we talked about music (tone and pitch) and colour (what it means), and he told us about the friendship between Shoenberg the composer and Kandinsky, and how, despite this friendship, Kandinsky turned into an anti-Semite. No, I cried, please, I love Kandinsky! But it’s true. And then, as usual, we began one of our two most contentious discussions – not Canada right or left, but the Middle East, the Muslim world, the state of Israel. Heated debate, in French – is there any other kind of debate in French?
Nothing resolved, Jack and Sylviane against the rest of us, the lefties. Jack feels that when immigrants come to Canada, they should integrate into Canadian society, as he did as a penniless 9-year old immigrant from Siberia, and not insist on standing far apart, as some do in the Muslim community. We spoke particularly about the niquab, which is appearing with more frequency in our community, and which all in our group, both left and right, see as subjugating the lives and rights of women. Wearing it is against the law in France. Jack is appalled, after the recent drowning murder of 3 rebellious daughters by a Muslim mother, father and brother, that no one in the moderate Muslim community has spoken out in horror. The rest of us argue for more tolerance, diversity, openness. And yet we hear Jack, a right-wing man of sensitivity and intelligence who has suffered greatly, and he hears us.
And needless to say, the cheese is good.



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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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