My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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The Department of Nice Things

Nice Things: At my first U of T class of term this week, a student told me she first took my class 14 years ago. “I’ve taken many writing classes since,” she said, “but yours was the best.” So she came back. What a nice thing.

A group of former students years ago formed a writing group and hired me to come in to edit periodically, latterly on Zoom. Today they’re moving on and said goodbye , telling me that my “particular genius” is “bringing people together in harmony and safety,” “making everyone feel part of the same process,” “that every voice is important.” The importance of dialogue, of putting yourself in the story. The words they won’t forget: What is this really about? Why are you telling me this story? One of them will have an essay in the Globe next week. NICE!

And another wrote and sang a song about how the class changed her life. Triple nice.

And finally, a Midlife Solo reader wrote that she’s partway through. “I love your essays. I have always associated the term essay with painful academic drudge, and suddenly here is a revitalised form, full of love and life. Inspiring.”

Grateful for these gifts.

Busy busy busy. I have regained energy! My lungs are clearer! I’m waking up at 5.45 and can’t get back to sleep, so a nap midday is essential. But today, I had the class on Zoom and have another tonight in my living room, then welcome old friends coming from Montreal and staying here for two days. So, much cleaning and tidying, sweeping away winter detritus. The lilac and the viburnum are competing to smell sweetest, and the rest of the garden is doing its miraculous best to bloom. Year after year after year, I marvel at the renewal.

Patrick and I posted a short except from the audiobook on Instagram.

Sunday I went to a concert at the Arts and Letters Club, that lovely dignified place – Caitlin Broms-Jacobs, a superb oboe player, playing modern pieces with a pianist, two of the composers in attendance, Alexina Louie one of them. What a haunting, melancholy instrument the oboe is; no wonder it’s used so much in klezmer music. Caitlin’s mother Pat was my writing student for some time and is effortlessly creative herself. And her grandmother was Jane Jacobs. An extraordinary family.

On Monday morning to Beth Tzedec Synagogue, to give a talk to their seniors group. When I arrived, an elderly man asked what the talk would be about, and when I replied, how to write memoir, he told me he had absolutely no interest in writing memoir. Hmm, a good start, I thought. But in fact, the room was soon filled with keen faces, even this guy. They asked very good questions. “Every time an old person dies, a library burns down,” is one of my favourite sayings, nowhere more relevant than in a room full of old people who should start to preserve their memories without delay.

I was on the subway home when I saw a face I recognized – Mattea Roach, the Canadian Jeopardy superstar. I don’t usually watch the program, but I watched her win and sometimes watch when they bring her back. She’s self-deprecating and funny and utterly brilliant, with a breathtaking breadth of knowledge and a phenomenal memory. She won a fortune on the show. But there she was on the subway with the rest of us plebs.

And as reported, on Tuesday I put on a bra and respectable clothes and rode across town to U of T. A wonderful group, very mixed, young and older, from all over the world. I’m looking forward to the journey. It was good to see a whole person again, not just a head in a box on screen. Though I like that too.

Just finished a beautiful book, How to be a good creature: a memoir in 13 animals, by Sy Montgomery. Succinct and powerful, highly recommended.

For Mother’s Day on Sunday, I’ve suggested to Anna that as our present, we ask our men – her boys and Sam – to make us dinner. I’ve said I’ll eat anything as long as they’ve cooked it and there’s at least one vegetable. We’ll see what they reply.

At least one good creature doesn’t care.



2 Responses to “The Department of Nice Things”

  1. “Quand un vieillard meurt en Afrique c’est tout une bibliothèque qui brûle.” African proverb, from Mali, specifically.

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    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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