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annals of aging # 643, Lightfoot, Verlyn Klinkenborg

One of those days – rain turning the snow to slush – that we dread in February. But – may I remind you, Powers That Be – it’s November! A little early for all this weatherly misery, don’t you think? Though, to cheer me up, the gardenia Wayson bought me years ago that’s parked in my bright upstairs hall until next spring has just produced its third bloom, perfuming the whole upstairs. So – we who are prematurely winter-bound take what blessings we can.

Went to the massage therapist last week with a few specific spots to work on: a sore shoulder and foot. I didn’t even know what a rotator cuff was before; now I do. Somehow I have pulled it, or one of them – are there several rotator cuffs, like on pants? – and if I lift my right arm, it hurts. There’s a constant pain in my left foot under the bunion. My knees crack like branches in the wind. Yesterday, after riding my bike to the Y through bitter cold, I had a sparkling halo dominating my right eyeball for hours.

But you know, when you consider how many moving parts make up this machine which has been running steadily for nearly 70 years, the thing is pretty miraculous. How many washing machines last 70 years? And yet here I am, going sort of strong.

Though the brain concerns me sometimes. I can laboriously learn a piece by heart on the piano, but if I don’t play it for a few weeks, it vanishes. Pouf, gone from the overcrowded, shrinking grey matter. Discouraging.

But the good news is, I don’t have to wade outside till Ryerson tonight – last class of term. We’ll have a party to celebrate. They’ve been a stellar bunch.

Watched If You Could Read My Mind, a doc on Gordon Lightfoot on the Doc channel last night, and soon will get out my scratched, beloved Lightfoot albums from the sixties and put them on. Steve Earle thinks Lightfoot is the most important singer/songwriter ever to come out of Canada – fighting words, Joni! – and I agree, one powerful, lyrical song after another. He had a happy childhood in Orillia, was a choirboy, grew up to be a hard-drinking womanizer which he now regrets – he won’t sing his misogynist That’s what you get for loving me any more – an interesting man who was in youth extremely handsome, gifted, and hardworking. His idol: Bob Dylan. But Dylan admires him too. A great Canadian story, with great great music.

To inspire me for the weeks of unemployment, aka holiday, ahead – 6 weeks with no income so free to do my own thing – I have a new library book, Several short sentences about writing, by a writer with the unlikely name Verlyn Klinkenborg. He sounds like a character from a comedy about Nazis, but in fact, he’s a marvellous writer and this is a very interesting book – a lot admonishing young people about how badly they’ve been taught to write, but much aimed at someone like me. He writes about the importance of each sentence. The book is condensed, like poetry:

Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Most of your time will be spent making sentences in your head.
In your head.
Did no one ever tell you this?
That is the writer’s life.
Never imagine you’ve left the level of the sentence behind.

Most of the sentences you make will need to be killed.
The rest will need to be fixed.
This will be true for a long time.
The hard part now is deciding which to kill and which to fix and how to fix them.
This will get much, much easier, but the decision making will never end.

A writer’s real work is the endless winnowing of sentences,
The relentless exploration of possibilities,
The effort, over and over again, to see in what you started out to say
The possibility of saying something you didn’t know you could.

Beautiful, no? I just looked him up – he’s a modern day E. B. White, writing about rural life in the New York Times, and he’s two years younger than I am. I hope his machine is running well. A long happy life to you, Verlyn.



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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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