What is the difference between fact and fiction? This is the question we were left with after enjoying the movie Maudie on a Sunday afternoon at the Plaza Theatre in Kensington.
We were sitting enjoying a pot of Oolong tea at a cozy tea house on a Sunday afternoon, when we realized we were only a few minutes walk away from a showing of the Canadian film, Maudie. It was on our list of movies to see so we rushed over to the old theatre, bought some reasonably priced popcorn and settled into the old red seats, well-worn from years of use with just a handful of other movie goers.(spoiler alert!)
The plot of the movie was slower than I would have liked, kind of like life sometimes I suppose– but the panoramic views of the Bay were pure eye candy. Apparently, the film was shot in Newfoundland and Labrador, not Nova Scotia. Both characters were well played, although it was difficult to watch the scene when Maudie was struck by her soon- to- be- husband. The overall tone of the movie that we were left with was that there was love between the two. We left the Plaza feeling a wee bit sad and eager to learn more about Maud Lewis. Doing a bit of Googling, we soon learned that another biographer of Maud’s life took a completely different angle on her life, he claimed that her husband was more abusive than the movie portrayed. The demise of both characters was darker than the film revealed. For instance, Everett was murdered during an attempted robbery on his property in 1979 and Maud may have died of malnutrition and not emphysema as the film depicted. But who can really understand the inner workings of a marriage? Can anyone truly know what goes on in the dark recesses of a couple’s relationship? I am a romantic. And so I choose to believe she was loved, as she utters on her death bed in one of the final scenes. The separation of fact and fiction about this artist’s life is what makes the writers of history and biography true artists, they must take bits and pieces to make it into a whole narrative story that in the case of film, must follow a storyline, and in the case of Maudie, the writers and director have definitely done a good job of it.
I have just finished a great little book- about reading books, titled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I admit I picked it up mainly because of the title. But once I started to read this little gem, I was hooked. It is the true story of a woman who sets out to read a book a day for a year— a daunting task for a mother of four boys. So I was quite skeptical at first of how she would accomplish her quest, and actually, the big question for me was why, why would she do this?
The reading I soon learned, was to help her stand still and understand how to deal with the grief after the death of her sister. She read for hope and comfort and it was her only perceived link that she shared with her sister. She explains in one chapter that her father was put in a sanatorium to recover from TB for over a year. To her she equates her reading challenge as a kind of sanatorium that helped her heal, to get herself back together.
She began her journey with the literary gem The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- later she recalls that from this book she learned to find “moments of beauty” whenever she could.
She at first foolishly thought she could read during the day when her kids were in school, in-between laundry and making dinner. But the author soon learns the only time available in her busy schedule is in the evening after everyone is in bed. She wisely chooses books that are only an inch in width, about 250-300 pages, but when one of her sons tells her to read Watership Down, a 500-page tome, she rises to the challenge. Each book is reviewed and posted to her website daily.
After reading Sankovitch’s book I felt inspired to read more. I have a list the length of my arm of must read books from her and one of them is called The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.
I encourage you to read this book— you will be truly inspired.
As a child when it was my special day I would get up early on the first of June, bring my pillow still warm from my head and place it outside on the cold concrete steps of my house. I would sit on my fluffy down pillow and just listen to the frantic trilling of bird songs which I felt were singing just for me. This was before everyone was up and about. Before the demands of my mother, before my little sister was up, before tearing open my package of Carnation instant breakfast that I would stir into a cold glass of milk, lumpy and sweet, swallowed in a rush to beat the school bell for nine o’clock. Before all the neighbours were up doing their noisy grown up things, before the machines roared to life, cars whisking neighbours away to their jobs, before the high whine of the lawn mowers started by a pull string, and the sounds of the children in the schoolyard across the lane, yelling and shouting exuberantly.
This was how I liked to start my day when I was eight. And I am trying to remember that child. In her honour, I will sit quietly listening to the sounds of nature that are still here despite the traffic, despite the urban sprawl, despite the noise of airplanes and the potent smell of pesticides sprayed from trucks with hoses.
Walking my favourite path at Nose Hill the other day I noticed a coyote walk by me at the top of a ridge. We both stopped to look at each other. But, after noting that I wasn’t threatening—it just went on its way, joyful that winter was over, ( I imagined this thought of course). It pounced on something playfully with its large paws, perhaps it was a nervous mouse trapped under its claws. It didn’t occur to me to be afraid, it was a wild animal, after all, the size of a large dog. Every day I see hawks sitting on the tips of the tallest lampposts along Shaganappi and think, despite us, despite the city, the animals remain, and I am grateful.
I will think of this as I sit quietly— grateful for the sounds of nature, my gift to myself on my special day. (But I no longer need a pillow for padding. )The birds are still here doing their frenzied thing!
I had the pleasure of listening to an author talk at the Central Library the other night. I wondered if it was worth the trouble to take the C-train downtown instead of hanging out in my pajamas at home like I do every night. Gone are the days of my youth when I would go out dancing after midnight! The author that I was going to see was Barbara Gowdy— she was promoting her new book of fiction, Little Sister.
The audience I noticed was largely older women in groups laughing and talking. Barbara walked onto the stage with two pillows and went on to explain the constant pain she was in for many years, and how she had to write lying down in bed. Her stories were amusing and thoughtful. Once she burped and said, “oops, sorry I burped!” And I thought, what an adorable person! The audience at first was slow for the question and answer period, but soon got on a roll and someone asked her if she regretted anything or wished she had changed something after it was written. She said she realized that everything that she wrote or did, had to happen, and, as a result, the next book was created. I like how she also said that we are all different people at different stages of our lives, meaning perhaps the first book she wrote, that she claims were very serious–was written by a different her. She also discussed how many writer’s families, especially their mothers, don’t actually like their books.
And on the very hot topic of cultural appropriation, Gowdy says about her book The White Bone, she hopes that if some elephants read her book, they won’t be mad that she may have made mistakes in how they actually live their lives. She wrote The White Bone to help people understand the plight of the elephants–but says that she doesn’t think it had any impact at all. She added that one of Trump’s sons hunted and killed elephants for sport.
She also discussed the importance of reading fiction. Her example was that a man who only read cookbooks cheated on his wife with her close friend. He was surprised when everyone was upset and mad at him. If he read fiction Barbara went on to explain, he might have understood these basic truths about how life works. We all enjoyed her story of how her little sister came with her to the hospital to help her when she had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Her sister had a seizure in the hospital, was whisked away to surgery and was fine after. It was like her cancer saved her sister’s life, Gowdy said. An amazing story told by a truly fine storyteller.
I encourage anyone to attend any books talks that you are able. It made for a wonderful evening–it was definitely worth getting out of my PJs for a change.
I have been going through a lot of boxes in anticipation of a big move. My intention was to cull unnecessary junk. I have managed to recycle quite a bit of old books and papers. But what I found is a treasure trove of written material.
It was a time before emails. I have poems written on crinkled paper Hallmark bags, I have an orange envelope with my progress reports from Seven Oaks School Division No.10–apparently in 1973, I was “sometimes dreamy’ with a good imagination.
I found postcards from friends on trips to London or Hawaii. Words of love from faces I can no longer recall. Letters I sent to my baba from summer camp. I recall reading a book with her late on a Saturday night– Letters From Camp. We would laugh so hard that I wet myself and my baba fell onto the middle of the linoleum in her sparse kitchen.
I found Love letters that are as thick as a Russian novel—day-to-day happenings, written neatly with small drawings in pen— a kind of handwritten Instagram, but much slower. How can I get rid of these precious, precious items?
I can’t. So into a box they go. I encourage everyone to pull out a pen and write a letter to someone. Write words of love or just any silly thing. I know your friend will be overjoyed to receive it. Your words will be a welcome surprise from junk mail and bills.
Is Karma a real thing? Or is it just something we tell ourselves when other people’s misdeeds affect us? Will those unkind actions from someone who we once trusted go unpunished? For instance what will happen to the ex-lover who turns incredibly cruel, or when an old friend is unkind. While I like to think they will get theirs, in the end, I know it is the false hope of an empath that a narcissist will one day wake up and realize that they are an a-hole and then feel sorry about it. That is not the way the world works. So how can empaths and just regular folk, protect themselves from the wrongdoings of others? I really have no answers. And while I enjoy reading Buddhist teachings on Karma, it really doesn’t give me the hard timelines that I am looking for. Like exactly when does said a-hole get theirs? Next Tuesday or say 2019 late fall? The idea that karma is lurking about ready to pounce doesn’t seem like a tangible enough system. The only coping strategy that I know of is to surround yourself with good people and hope the bad ones go far far away, to somewhere like Prince George or Toronto.
According to Wikipedia, Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.
I am a creature of habit. Whenever I go to a restaurant and find a meal that I love, I only order that same meal although there are many other enticing choices to choose from. This can go on for years. When I go to the swimming pool, I always choose the same locker and shower stall and when I go to yoga I have a favourite part of the wall that I like to do legs up the wall with before class. I like to have my same coffee mug in the morning for my latte and I place the same ring on my finger every day as I swish out the door.
And if you ever go grocery shopping with me you will know better than to not put that little cart token back in its special spot on my key chain!
Now, some of you may say this is a bit OCD— a little bit of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory stuff happening here, but I say, no! these little rituals are actually good. It is the little habits that I can count on in a world full of change and uncertainty.
If you saw my office you would know that I am the opposite of OCD , tiny piles of papers swirl around my naked ankles as I sit and write this blog. Although I do have them in piles that only make sense to me.
And when my significant other makes fun of me for always liking the same food, I tell him in my defense, that really this works in his favour. I only like him. I don’t want to change my order. Just like the grilled chicken burger with a side of yam fries that I always order at restaurants, I will always order up the same red-headed guy. Once in a while I am persuaded to try some other meal at a restaurant and am almost always disappointed. I think,”Darn! I could of had the chicken burger.”
Here is a link to a very popular book about tidying up your life, it is about bringing order to your surroundings to create a sense of calm into your world- which I guess is what I am trying to do with my little rituals. I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my to- do list that is underneath these mounds of papers.