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“Haida Gwaii”

It’s winter now, cold – frost on the grass this morning, for the first time. All a Canadian body wants to do at a time like this is eat large quantities of carbohydrates and drink alcoholic beverages and doze in a cave. Not, however, an option.

Friday, lunch with a group of old and dear friends at the home of our mutual friend who was diagnosed a few years ago with ALS. She is brave and beautiful, still working hard as a writer. We bring food and cheer and the cold air of outdoors, and love, we bring all the love in our hearts for our friend.

Sunday’s extravagance: taking Anna and Eli, and Ben in the Snugli, to see famous performer for children Raffi at Roy Thomson Hall. It seemed a good idea at the time. When my ex-husband got a job at the National Arts Centre, we packed up our lives and drove from Vancouver to Ottawa with Anna, who was two, in the back seat. And all the way, all the @##@ way, we listened to Baby Beluga. Baby Beluga is engraved in my brain and that of countless other parents, many of them in the audience on Sunday. It was wonderful to be there with an original fan and, more than 30 years later, her son, who listens to other Raffi records when he’s here – though for some reason, I have neglected to include Baby Beluga among my possessions.

But it didn’t work. Roy Thomson Hall is vast, and Raffi was one small man very far away, singing very slowly and quietly, telling corny jokes (one about the yellow pages – this to an audience of kids who have never seen a rotary phone.) These kids are used to screens a foot from their faces, loud and bright and full of action; Raffi needs to up his game, slow and sweet doesn’t cut it. The noise in the hall grew increasingly loud as kids writhed and chatted. Eli was completely uninterested throughout, his only observation that the arms of the seats didn’t have a hole for our drinks; we explained that a concert hall is different from a movie theatre. We stayed most of the way through until Raffi sang Baby Beluga and we got out of there.

Went across the street to a local pizzeria for a bite; already there was a table of fellow escapees from the concert – four adults and a two year old. The adults were chatting and drinking wine, and the child sat riveted to an iPad screen showing cartoons. I know these devices mean peace for adults, but their use fills me with concern – for the child’s imagination, brain, vision and hearing. However. I’m just a fogie. I had brought a book to keep Eli busy, but mostly he wanted to play with the knives.

Monday night’s treat, seeing the glorious documentary “Haida Gwaii” with friend Lynn. A magnificent wild island I’ve always wanted to visit – the only place in the world under the complete control of indigenous people, someone explained. It showed the courage of the First Nations people battling the logging companies, fighting for their forests, their land, their rights. The star of the film, beside the place itself, is Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who is married to a Haida and lives on Haida Gwaii. Not surprisingly, considering her upbringing, she speaks with profound eloquence about the responsibility we all have to try to fix our planet. When I got home, I Googled her talk to the Rio Climate Change conference when she was twelve years ago. A phenomenal woman, beautiful, calm and wise.

And speaking of phenomenal women, today was the last U of T class and we had our last class feast. This group has bonded like no other – a band of sisters. They gave me a lei to see me off to Hawaii – yellow flowers around my neck, as I said goodbye.

Teaching over for the term. Also today, I emailed the current draft of the memoir to my editor friend Chris – it suddenly seemed like self-indulgent nonsense and I need some feedback. So, a break from that. My son had the flu and came home to Mama for a few days, which was wonderful and also messy, my God that man can eat.

Now to sort out my life. I have much to do to get ready to leave town, though right now, I’d rather just curl up in a big furry ball and go to sleep.



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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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