8 a.m. on a beautiful, sweet morning, a reprieve during this sweltering summer. Yesterday, I was in the garden, listening to the cardinal heckling me – where’s the @#$#@ seed, slowpoke? We’re waiting! So I filled the feeder and the fearless bird swooped in immediately, a few feet from me, his scarlet topknot rising and falling as he pecked. And then he flew to the nearby fence and popped the seed into the mouth of a small brown bird with scarlet tinges. Back and forth he flew, the baby squawking I assume with gratefulness and not the way Eli sounds sometimes as he whines, I don’t like this stuff, donwanit.
The drama of life in the garden. The minuscule spider in my bedroom, however, has vanished, and so has his web. No idea what happened to them, how they could completely disappear.
Soon the noises will start. Bell is installing fibre optic cable, whatever that is, and they’re ripping up the street nearby. But for now, my oasis.
Monday – my best friend Lynn grew up in Chateauguay, outside of Montreal, and has come in from Provence with her husband Denis to visit friends and family. In July, three of her adult children flew from their far-flung homes – Sarah from Nairobi with her three half-Burundian children, Myriam from Mauritius with her two Muslim sons, and Christopher from London with his partner and their half-Spanish daughter. This international brood went to Banff and Jasper and back to Chateauguay, and then Sarah came to Toronto with her kids to visit an old friend of hers, and us.
I’ve known Sarah since she was a very small girl; recently she’s been head of various third world NGO’s including Handicap International in Nepal, then in Zimbabwe, and now in Nairobi. An extraordinary life. Her marriage to a Burundian ended in divorce, so she is the single mother of six-year old twin boys and a nine year old girl. A strong accomplished admirable woman. Eli and the twins immediately vanished into Anna’s yard and were soon screaming with laughter; Maude, with no one to play with, got out her iPad while we prepared lunch and Anna and Sarah discussed motherhood today.
A special joy, to meet the children of your best friend’s children.
A momentary lull in the action.
Maude has her grandmother Lynn’s smile.
Lynn and Denis come to Toronto next week, Denis for a few days and Lynn to stay with me for 3 weeks. She and I met at Carleton University 51 years ago, in September 1967, when I was just 17 you know what I mean, and she, I never let her forget, a year and a month older. Despite homes on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we’ve enjoyed a lifetime of laughter. No greater gift than that.
Tuesday, a first – I met with a high school student who’s off to university in September and wanted to improve her writing skills. She sent me two of her high school essays and we met to discuss how they could have been better and general principles of good writing. How impressed I am, I told her, that you’ve taken the initiative to learn how to write properly and well.
I gazed at her, so beautiful, perfect unlined skin, thick shining hair, glowing with health and youth – exactly the age that Lynn and I were when we met. We must have looked like that. And inside, we still do.
That evening, I was invited to my other Lynn friend’s for dinner and a swim. When this Lynn bought a huge house in north Toronto, she and her husband transformed their ordinary backyard pool into what looks like a small lake, with irregular stone sides and overhanging shrubs and trees, restful and stunning. The day was, as always, breath-suckingly hot, so plunging into that tiny lake was beyond heaven. We floated for an hour, buoyed by pool noodles, before emerging for a gourmet dinner which included a 2014 Corton, because Lynn is an oenophile. And then, since her husband was out and the pool secluded, I took off my clothes and floated in the pool again.
Read my friend Theresa’s evocative blog post yesterday about swimming every day in a nearby lake, and I’m jealous of her, of Lynn. The only way to survive these blistering summers is in a body of water. With no cottage and no pool and Lake Ontario flooded with sewage after last week’s storm, I am doomed to swelter.
And also doomed to rewrite, yet again, the blessed memoir. Received the report of the young editor, perspicacious and punchy – this works, this does not. Less of this and more of this. A bit of it I don’t agree with – there is a generational issue, for example, when I use the word ‘retarded’ because that is the word we used in 1979 when the book takes place, and my editor recoils in horror. But most of what she wrote is extremely useful. Even as I sigh at the work ahead.
I spent much of yesterday editing other people’s writing and then trying to digest the comments of my own editor. Fascinating – that one can be a successful critic of others and yet so in need of those critical eyes for one’s own work.