I started it. It’s taking off in an unknown direction already. Will she go to Europe with her friend? What will she do? And hey, I even worked an owl into the first Page!
So, here’s a excerpt from the first chapter.
All that decided, I felt free. A squirrel danced at the end of an oak tree branch. I looked at it and grinned. I’m just as free as you are, I told it, and turned a cartwheel on the freshly-mown grass.
An elderly couple riding in a caleche passed me and I could see that they were discussing my behaviour. They probably thought I was high. Well, I was, but it was a natural high. I didn’t need drugs. I was free. I was twenty-two. I had a passport, a bank account and birth control pills. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted, with whoever I wanted.
Now I wanted to follow my decisions with actions, so I headed down the way I had come, along the tree-lined path, past the big houses on Mount Royal Avenue, along McGregor to the lower campus of McGill, to the Administration Office. After filling out a form and talking with the registrar’s secretary, I wandered over to The Main and had a salad and a glass of beer, not my usual lunch. Then with a determined step I returned to Place Ville Marie and rode the elevator up to the fiftieth floor, where I confronted my legal colleagues.
I was asked this question today. I always find it hard to answer. I can imagine that if you asked a baseball player why he play baseball he’s say it was because he enjoyed it. I can predict that if you asked a doctor why she practices medicine, she might say it was because she wants to help people. These are just conjectures. But while I can speculate about others, I don’t find it simple to imagine what answer people expect from me.
I suppose I write because I have to. Just like a runner needs to run, I feel a strong need to create entire realities that express my values and my imagination.
I also write for other people. I love to hear from my readers who tell me they enjoyed my books, saw themselves in them, recognized feelings they have had, enjoyed the little world I created. I like reading to school classes and listening to their ideas and responses afterwards.
I also hope that someday my descendants will know a little more about the real me. My grandchildren are too young to read my books now, but someday they’ll e able to. Maybe my son and daughter will be able to see into their mother’s imagination and get to know me a little better, too.
I need to tell my stories. I guess it’s as simple as that.
A fellow writer, Robin Spano, posted this on Facebook this morning, “Loving the luxury of my first morning in a week with coffee and my manuscript. You know things are good when your day job is what you love more than anything.”
Can you relate? I recently had to go a week without writing because of commitments I’d made, and I began to feel physically sick. I got back to my manuscript and wrote all day, then the next. I felt so much better, and I also finished writing half the first draft pf my fourth Magda of Mayne Island novel. This is not a writing rhythm I’d recommend.
What works best for me is a day that begins with rewriting the previous day’s work, then writing today’s chapter or two with a cup of coffee. It proceeds with more writing, with a short break for lunch, if I remember, then reading and writing blogs or letters, then writing some more and ends with my printing up and reading that day’s work and making changes in pencil. Every day is different, but that’s what I call a good day. I can’t complain. It’s a good life.
Back to work now.
After graduating from university in my early 20s, I promised myself I’d never write another paper or exam. I was wrong. I started writing research papers in my 40s just for my own satisfaction, because I was interested in things and wanted to study them to the nth degree, and then went back and got my MA when I was 50 because I wanted to work my brain really hard, among other things. Some people have a need to work out physically (not me) and others can’t go to sleep till they’ve had a great mental workout (me.) At 22 or 33 I never knew that about myself.
I wonder what drives us to do brain work.
When I was in a very difficult part of my life, as these things go, with kids at the leaving home stage and a mother getting to the needing care stage, I made a life-changing decision. I decided to get a graduate degree.
You might wonder why I would choose this path, the path of academia, but I had simply discovered that working hard with my brain had given me a sense of competence and control that I wasn’t finding in the rest of my life and I wanted to feel competent and in control just then. My world was changing and I could no longer take on all the problems my loved ones were having to cope with. I was no longer in control of my little patch of the world.
Some people join gyms or run. I knew I had to study. I had to learn new things and find out where they fit into my mental geography. I had to weigh, measure and compare ideas and see how they could find application in my life.
I guess it’s no surprise that I chose to take my degree in counselling, since it was in the realm of the mind that I was feeling the loss of control. I wanted to expand my knowledge and understanding of human behavior and things about the human brain’s workings that I didn’t know, and learn what the great psychologists saw as the way we work and think and feel and relate, and how their views differed and what was true for me. I gave myself over to studying for two years, and at the end of it I had a Master’s Degree and I also had a mind that I could rely on for clear thinking and deeper understanding of the human condition.
I’m someone who needs to exercise her mind. Some of you jog. I don’t. I solve problems when I can, whether in my work or at leisure. It makes me feel good.
And the bonus is, I became more effective in my life and can pass on that knowledge to others.
After forty years I’m still a vegetarian, and I’ve celebrated forty Thanksgivings without eating animals.
My family have always started our dinner with steamed artichokes dipped in garlic butter or olive oil (whether vegan or lacto ovo.)
We eat the traditional foods, like yams, Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. I stuff a squash using my mother’s stuffing recipe that has a lot of sage in it, and of course make gravy, nice and thick.
Sometimes I make a tofu dish or a nut loaf.
Depending on what we have in our garden that particular year, we might have cucumbers, beans, carrots, or whatever. Tomatoes and lettuce are the basis of a tossed salad.
There are spicy pumpkin pies, apple pies, whipped cream for those who like it, and then we relax with a glass of juice or cup of coffee.
We are thankful for all we receive from this good earth.
“There comes a time in life where you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus soley on the good. After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.”
What do you think of this quote? I read it and loved it right away, but I’ve been thinking it over. On the surface it sounds very liberating. But I wonder about the people you leave behind. I agree that “pointless drama” should be avoided. If there isn’t a point to the drama, then by definition it won’t lead to a new understanding or point. And I agree that the people creating the pointless drama are to be avoided, at least at times, if you can’t remain positive in their presence. But this should not mean we write them out of our lives.
Although this quote sounds liberating, it’s a liberty gained by retreating. Sure, you can surround yourselves with happy-go-lucky friends who make you laugh. I bet it would be a lot of fun. But what about those other people in your life that are not so happy? Do they deserve to be abandoned because they don’t make you feel good?
I don’t think life is too short to be anything but happy, if it’s at the expense of other people. Call me a do-good-er, but I love my friends even when they’re sad or angry, depressed or confused, and I like to hang out with them even if they don’t make me feel like laughing.
I think Steve Jobs is expressing a selfish attitude. You’re number one and only things that make you happy are worth doing? Right? I don’t believe that. I think relationships are sometimes very difficult, and when we’re in those relationships it sometimes becomes dramatic. Sometimes it feel pointless. So what? Do you think it’s better to tear families and friendships apart because you just want to feel happy all the time? Are you entitled to a life of pure happiness?
To me this is a selfish attitude, and frankly, one that is juvenile. I hope we all have deeper relationships with people than what’s implied in that quote, that we care enough about others to stay with them through rough times, when they might be stuck and trying to work something out. Don’t give up on them because they don’t bring a smile to your lips whenever you’re together.
You’d want a friend to do the same for you.
I’m not into “fitness.” I’ve attended fitness classes, yoga, tai chi, aqua-fit, tennis and golf lessons, and the list goes on. I never enjoyed any of them. They either frustrated me or put me to sleep. Other than walking, there is no exercise I enjoy except for dancing, and belly dancing is my favourite dance of them all.
While in my thirties, I danced regularly and was in good health.
My first belly dancing teacher was a young woman with long blonde hair who had learned to belly dance in northern Africa from the local women who gathered in the town square to bake bread together and exchange the daily news.
My friend Denise Dunn was her star pupil. Denise took over the class and started a Middle Eastern Dance performance troupe. I took dance classes from Denise and so did my daughter who was around five years old then. She looked so cute in her harem pants and little top, and kept up with all the other women.
Now, about thirty years later, I attended a belly dance workshop taught by Martha Reid. Martha dances in the same ethnic tradition as my first teacher and Denise. She had all twenty of us doing a complete dance by the end of two hours. Her up-beat teaching style, her loving acceptance of every body, and her choice of music gave us confidence and kept us joyful throughout.
Belly dancing is an amazing way to get fit and stay that way. I never recommend an activity for its fitness benefits, but I am breaking my rule and recommending belly dancing. What’s not to love?