Tomorrow I will turn 73. 73! When I think that 64 was Paul McCartney’s idea of extreme old age when he was a young composer … and now he’s 81, just announced a big tour of Australia, and I will be 73, with my fifth book Midlife Solo coming out in the fall. 70 is the new 50, we fondly hope. I have nothing to say about being this old except – how glad I am to have wonderful older friends like Ruth and Ken to show me how it’s done.
I told my impoverished children, not a big do this year; all I want for my birthday is for you to decide on and make dinner. So a small family gathering, with a menu to be decided, and a very chocolatey cake from Daniel and Daniel, of course.
Yesterday, a huge treat: a superb piece of theatre: The Effect, at Coal Mine Theatre. Rode my bicycle east along the bike path on the Danforth for quite a ways, to Woodbine, to this very small theatre. A thought-provoking play by Lucy Prebble and, I’d say, a perfectly directed and cast show. Two young people sign up for a month-long drug trial and begin to fall in love. Is it love or the serotonin-enhancing drug? The scientists running the experiment have their own complicated history and issues. So – a pressure cooker, perfect for drama. In a tiny space, the set, lighting, acting, could not have been better.
The only sad thing was that the founder of the theatre, actor Ted Dykstra, had to come on at the end to plead for donations. How terrible that artists are reduced to begging. I am going to send them a cheque; I can’t spare much, but want to show how much I appreciated what they accomplished on a shoestring, to enrich our city.
Hopped back on the bike to meet my son for a quick bite at a restaurant on the Danforth, the place where he had his first job at seventeen, as a dishwasher. Now under new management, but Sam knows the place inside and out. We have the most intense talks, my son and I; we’re so alike in many ways. And then home to — what do I do in the evenings? Mess about, a bit of TV, reading, god knows what.
One of the best parts of my day is after breakfast and coffee — every morning, I take my secateurs and go out into the garden, checking, clipping, staking. Breathing it in, the silence, the colour and growth and beauty. Celebrating the dead slugs floating in the dishes of beer I put out; they’ve devoured so much. This is what May Sarton said about gardening: “Do I spend too much time at this ephemeral task? In spring, summer, and autumn I work harder at it than at writing, and I expect that looks crazy, but what it does is balance all the anxieties and tensions and keep me sane. Sanity (plus flowers) does make sense.”
Yes, May, sanity plus flowers does make sense. Jean-Marc told me recently he thought in ten years I wouldn’t be able to cope with this house and would have to move. That may be so, but — how will I live without the sanity of the garden? It feels like part of my soul.
I have a flowery soul.