My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

Beth Kaplan logo

the joys of Michel de Montaigne

My dear Chris has chastised me for not posting daily, as he does. He thinks I should rename this site “Born to Blog Occasionally.” I wrote back to say I didn’t think there was anything in the Official Blog Rulebook that insists we bloggers must post every day. I love that he does, that I can follow the daily activities of one of my oldest and dearest friends who lives on the other side of the country. But for me, the need to write begins to bubble inside until I can’t bear it, I have to let it out; this takes time. And writing each post also takes time, often up to two hours I don’t have in the day.

So – “Born to Blog when the need arises and I can make time and there’s something to tell you.” How about that?

What I have to say today is not much, however. It’s our first real autumn/winter day – cold and bleak, a grey-white sky, nothing moving, no desire to go anywhere. The time for hibernation has set in; suddenly I’m more tired, want to eat chocolate and carbs and go lie down. Did not ride to the market this morning. Will not go to the Y. Will however go to the library, if I can read a bit more of the massive tome I need to return, The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, who, in the Screech translation, is a most entertaining companion, thoughtful, erudite – quotes in Latin every few lines and many examples from his life experience and from classical literature – as he examines thumbs, prayer, cannibals, and many other disparate subjects with wit and profound insight into human behaviour, especially his own.
On Solitude:

We should have wives,
children, property, and, above all, good health … if we can: but we should not
become so attached to them that our happiness depends on them. We should set
aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop, keeping it entirely
free and establishing there our true liberty, our principal solitude and
asylum. Within it our normal conversation should be of ourselves, with
ourselves, so privy that no commerce or communication with the outside world should
find a place there; there we should talk and laugh as though we had no wife, no
children, no possessions, no followers, no menservants, so that when the
occasion arises that we must lose them it should not be a new experience to do
without them. We have a soul able to turn in on herself; she can keep herself
company; she has the wherewithal to attack; to defend; to receive and to give.
Let us not fear that in such a solitude as that we shall be crouching in
painful idleness.

1267 pages like this; it would take many weeks to do it justice. But I need to take him back – the book is overwhelming and too thick to hold comfortably, I’ll come back to it – and get the one that’s waiting for me, Twyla Tharp’s new Keep it moving: lessons for the rest of your life. I loved her The creative habit and quote it in class, that routine is the friend of the creative person. Make a work behaviour automatic and you won’t have to push yourself to do it. Routine helps us stop crouching in painful idleness.

Have never been able to follow it myself, but it’s great advice.

Much to do besides reading books, papers, emails, websites, FB, the New Yorker etc. – cooking a ratatouille, practicing the piano, maybe though probably not watching a good movie – Temple Grandin – that’s on this afternoon on one of the movie networks, laundry, work. Gretchen came to watch Bill Maher last night and brought a freshly-baked apple pie – an inspiration. I had an idea for a new writing project at 4 a.m., which is when many of my ideas appear. Contemplated going out to see Pain and Glory, one of several great movies out now, but won’t. The day, which at this moment, 1 p.m., feels long and empty, will vanish.

As they do.

Spent yesterday morning listening to Sandy and Nora’s Podcast, one of Anna’s favourite political podcasts; she sent a link to a specific discussion about the recent library controversy, on which Anna and I have opposite viewpoints. I listened and responded at length and in detail about how much I dislike and am offended by these two judgemental, closed-minded, foul-mouthed, misinformed, censorious, sanctimonious young women and what they have, so self-righteously and with such frightening self-confidence, to say. How can my daughter … no, stop. No point.

Go on, Beth, tell us what you really feel.

On the other hand, had two emails this morning from my new BFF in Edmonton, a poet and spiritual counsellor who was one of my mother’s good friends and who has now, amazingly, through the internet, become one of mine. We write long emails about our families, our writing work, the past. A great and unexpected gift.

So that’s it for today – nothing much from this long silent solitary day in the grey. But here I am, not crouching in idleness but here, in my room at the back of the shop, writing to you.

We have lived quite enough
for others: let us live at least this tail-end of life for ourselves. Let us
bring our thoughts and reflections back to ourselves and our own well-being.

Amen, Michel.



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.