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in the gloom

A heavy heart today, with the news about the American soldiers killed by Iran, the inevitable escalation. Just what the world needs — more violence and unwinnable war. I try to go back and imagine my parents in the late 1930’s, watching the world slide into catastrophe; things have been very bad on our planet before. But the confluence now, with lunatic politics worldwide, climate change, refugees everywhere — all visible on our feeds, in a way impossible in an earlier time, so we’re confronted with it all constantly … it’s tough.

Had a little argument with Anna last night. I bought a new book to read to the boys, Dogsong, by Gary Paulsen, whose Hatchet we really enjoyed — they liked its tale of a brave lad’s survival in the woods. This one is about an Inuit boy in the north. Anna started to read it to them but told me she stopped to talk about cultural appropriation — that the book was written by a white outsider, not an Indigenous person, and they should keep that in mind as they listened.

It made me briefly furious, as these things do — isn’t the job of writers to imagine themselves into other lives and bring those experiences to light for readers? Where would world literature be if only the actual people involved were allowed to write their truths? I brought up Uncle Tom’s Cabin, white outsider Harriet Beecher Stowe writing black characters in such a way that she helped end slavery. Would she be allowed to write that today, or would she be cancelled? Or simply not published?

Yes, minority voices have long been marginalized and need to be heard, their experiences honoured, absolutely. But I do find the pendulum has swung very far in that direction, and maybe can swing back a bit, to allow writers to do what they do.

Okay, rant over. Although it’s unusually, frighteningly mild for January, it’s also Day 5792 of gloom, so my spirit has been gloomified. Apparently by this time in winter we’ve usually received something like 300 hours of sun, and this year, it’s 30. Plus the U.S. and Iran. Plus Sam Nutt of War Child on the CBC right now talking about the appalling crisis in South Sudan. Plus everything else. It feels unbearable today; my skin feels raw.

However, as always, there is art. Went to a matinee at the opera yesterday with Toronto Lynn and Monique. I rarely go, but The Cunning Little Vixen had great reviews, and it’s short. A very strange opera about a fox — wait, should Janacek have been allowed to write in the voice of a fox? Oh stop. Anyway, the costumes, music, voices were marvellous, even if it was all a bit bewildering.

And I watched a movie free through Kanopy, Their Finest, about WWII in Britain and the Blitz, especially interested now because I’m going to start writing my parents’ story. It’s a slight film but charming, and I discovered a new handsomeness, Sam Clafin, who went to the same London theatre school as moi, though unfortunately not at the same time. Mmm.

My friend Ron Hume, who at 91 is becoming the writer he has always wanted to be, has a new Substack, and today’s post is about mindfulness. Breathing in the world, actually stopping to see, smell, listen — something I do far too rarely. I will try to do it today. Because otherwise I feel my head and heart might split wide open.

However, recently I saw a photo I’ve never seen before. There’s always this to cheer me up, this eternal partnership of joy.



2 Responses to “in the gloom”

  1. Juliet says:

    Did you watch the US Senate excoriating Zuckerberg for all the harm he has caused young people with his “social media” platforms? They forced him to apologize. It was epic, watch on YouTube.

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    No, didn’t see it, will check it out. Thanks, Juliet.

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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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