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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, and Mary-Ellen Mark in Ward 81

Yesterday, dark and wet all day. Today, what a difference — bright sun, and the snow is nearly gone. Friday, joyfully, I started gardening — pruning deadwood, anyway. Today I went out to check on snowdrops and croci buried under the snow and liberated them from the white piles weighing them down. Spring is nigh! I know, we have a way to go. But there’s hope.

So much has been going on, it’s hard to imagine I was not going to be here for two whole weeks. It’s been confirmed I’ll teach memoir at the week-long U of T Summer Writing School in July, and have spent two full days sending a submission to teach at the San Miguel Writers’ Festival in Mexico next February. And Episode Eight of my podcast about memoir writing has just been posted under podcasts, here, and at It’s a good one, if I say so myself. 

Friday in the sun, I celebrated this battered city on my bike. Rode to the St. John’s Bakery, which is both a yeasty bakery and a mission, for nearly $50 worth of bread and ginger cookies, plus a croissant and pain au chocolat — who needs Paris? — and hot cross buns for Easter. It’s been a carb rich few days.

Then off the other way, to an Indigenous festival at Yonge/Dundas Square, expecting to see my daughter at work, but I was too early, and from there, a stone’s throw to the Ryerson Image Centre, to see an exhibit by Mary-Ellen Mark. Photographing on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, she became interested in the actual mental patients in the film, ended up spending a month with a collaborator living in Ward 81 of the Oregon State Hospital and photographing the inmates, a haunting series of photos, with film and audio.

Around the corner from the Centre is a safe injection site; some of the people gathered outside could have been on the walls of the exhibition, and I wondered — have we done vulnerable people with mental health problems a favour to release them from institutions and shove them onto the street? In a compassionate society, there’d be a safe middle ground. But then, our society is growing less compassionate by the minute.

The other night, I watched Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which I enjoyed, a two-hander starring the incomparable Emma Thompson, whose final act of bravery — standing naked in front of a mirror, on camera, at sixty — is an intensely powerful moment of affirmation for all of us middle-aged and old women. Her co-star, the spectacularly handsome Daryl McCormack, is a soft-voiced, soft-faced, mixed race young Irishman with the body of a god. Pardon me while I fan myself. 

In an hour, off to walk to the theatre with Ruth, to see Cliff Cardinal’s The Land Acknowledgement. Imagine, stuck in sad, boring old Paris, I’d have missed all this! 



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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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