Category Archives: Personal

A baby, a novella

20140411-IMG_5769A second set of sticky notes about books is nearly ready to post, as promised, but I’m going to interrupt that brief series with two recent happenings in my life.

First was the birth of another granddaughter! I visited the family in B.C. for ten days, to help as best I could in a busy household with a new baby and returned with warm memories of the lovely child (who bears the distinguished name Honor) and many memories of the other children as well. Choice sayings by the nearly-three-year-old, for example, moments of closeness initiated by a child who tends to self-containment, and so on. Things a grandparent gathers and chuckles over or ponders upon.

Then there was the news from The Malahat Review. The novella contest this journal holds every other year gave me a deadline for my story “Mask”, and the entry fee was a year’s subscription to one of Canada’s finest literary magazines, so why not try. One never submits without hope, of course, and I worked like crazy on that story, feeling as thin and fragile as glass by the time I was finally done. Hope, I’ve discovered, is not necessarily the same as expectation, however. Submission, sometimes rejection, sometimes acceptance, that’s the way it rolls in the writing world.  But here it was, the letter said I’d won. I walked around the house for some time, shaking. (Since the official announcements were pending, I could tell only my nearest and dearest and he was out of reach, ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg!) Glad for myself, I’ll admit, but for the story too, getting its moment in print and some readers. I hope this isn’t too much crowing, especially in a week when one is cautious of crowing, roosters, etc., but I’m deeply grateful and also want to acknowledge the financial assistance provided by the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council last fall to work on “Mask” and other stories.WAC-logo-thumbnail_144_131_70

Since many of you already know of these events via other venues and have responded (thank you!), I’ve disabled comments for this column. I wish you all a safe and blessed Holy Week and Easter.

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Filed under Personal, Writing

Tis the season to be listing

That time again, lists taking over like dandelions. The best or most important in news, people, books, movies, fashion. Experts summoned for the top picks of whatever they’re experts about.

For the most part I enjoy reading these retrospectives, if only to refresh my memory or compare “their” favorites with mine or be alerted to all that I missed. I often feel somewhat lethargic and retrospective myself just before the new year breaks and find myself paging through the past year’s diary/journal.

For me, less voluminous note-keeping is definitely trending (one of the words I see on lists of words to abandon in 2014), so a year takes less time to review than it used to. 2013, in fact, has been quite nicely contained in one relatively thin Moleskin-knockoff, written on only one side of the page no less. Here’s a bit of a list of what I discovered when paging back. Continue reading

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Delivered!

She was unloaded and delivered to us, glory be!
Unloaded from her mother, the little one, delivered,
And we all say Glory Be!
(Inuit birth song)

Good news early this morning! Our seventh grandchild — a girl — arrived safely into the world. And for the seventh time, my heart wells up in the words of the song above: Glory Be! So, I write her name in my journal, ponder who she is and will be, mull over the word delivered, which comes from Old French and Latin roots meaning “set free.” (Which reminds me of one fictional newly-hatched chick saying to another: “See, I told you there was life after birth!”) The meaning of the word developed through “set free” to “give up, surrender,” and finally “hand over to someone else.” All rich connotations for the delivery of a baby and the life ahead of her, and for the Christmas season, all about a baby’s birth as well. — Glory Be!

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Does she need a second word for dress?

Recent visits to see our grandchildren, both east and west, impressed on me again that most miraculous and mysterious of matters: children acquiring language. How in the world do they process vocabulary and grammar and everything else in those little brains of theirs? It’s a delight to watch and participate in, to read aloud to them and hear the nursery rhymes and songs learned so effortlessly, it seems.

The adult reader realizes that the little Miss being read to can’t possibly know all those words yet. Gown, for example, in a story about a girl who delivers a dress through a snow storm. But set into the story, which charms her for any number of reasons, and heard numerous times,  gown, which is another word for dress will probably stick. Does she need a second word for dress? Well, yes of course she does. The two are slightly different, and she will need a lot of words for everything. Differences, nuance, precision, sounds of various kinds enrich our lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Personal

Running on Repeat: the death of JFK

It being the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s death, we’re bombarded with retrospectives of various kinds. I’ve been tuning in to many of them. I don’t know why I’m drawn back so intensely. Perhaps I’m reaching for a time I lived through, unbelievably half a century ago already, and to a 13-year-old Me.

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

Last evening, for example, I watched “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy.” The assassination happened Friday and by Monday some 45,000 letters had arrived to Mrs. Kennedy at the White House. Over the next two months, the number reached 800,000. Among them was a letter from me. Handwritten. In green ink as I recall. Continue reading

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Filed under Current events, Personal

In defence of what you’re trying to do

Before I get completely submerged under the ripe tomatoes, ditto the grapes and the five-gallon pail of apples, plus the story I’m writing, I want to say something about last week.

I spent it at the Banff Centre in an intensive focus on short fiction led by Alexander MacLeod, literature professor and author of the Giller short-listed collection Light Lifting. I’ve never taken a writing retreat or week-long writing course, so I’m still feeling like a girl on her first trip to Disney. It’s a bit of a wonderful bubble one goes into, for sure. But the Disney analogy ends now: there’s nothing Minnie Mouse about carefully, brutally workshopping others’ writing (that is, learning to read), or being workshopped just as carefully and brutally. We all knew, of course, and tried to remember, this was where the benefit (a.k.a love) lay. Continue reading

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Catch-up, camping, Coetzee

Oh friends, I’d so hoped to be a regular blogger all summer, emphasis on regular, and I didn’t do so badly there for a week or two. And through the lovely days, things gathered in my head that I wished to tell you, but I didn’t get them spoken after all! Not that this is a tragedy of any proportion whatsoever, not for you or me; there are words enough swimming into everyone’s daily net and the ones that get away are rarely missed! A good thing, that. Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Personal

In the company of old words

My work priorities have shifted somewhat for December and January. Two weeks ago, N., the 17-year-old daughter of my husband’s nephew (which makes her our grand-niece I think), came to Canada from Paraguay to stay with us for two months, with the goal of improving her English. So we’re speaking our very best English and enjoying her being here and also setting her up with various local volunteer experiences.

"Papa's Tagebuch" -- 5 notebooks brought by N. for me to transcribe.

“Papa’s Tagebuch” — 5 notebooks brought by N. for me to transcribe.

What this has to do with my priorities isn’t so much the presence of a teenager, however, but a time commitment I made on account of her coming. H’s father, who died before we were married, kept a diary for several years in the 1930s and then again for several years in the 1950s. His oldest sister had begun the work of transcribing these diaries for the benefit of the entire family. Thanks to her work, I’ve read the first two years of it in typed form — from Heinrich Dück’s leaving Russia in 1929 through the early years of settlement in the Chaco, Paraguay which included the deaths of his parents (his mother by lightning) and also his marriage. I confess I’ve been itching to read the rest of the diaries but my sister-in-law isn’t well and so she hasn’t been able to proceed. Continue reading

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Filed under History, Personal

On disappointment

I’d anticipated writing a cheery post this week about Saturday’s trip to Dauphin, a small city about four hours northwest of Winnipeg. I was quite sure there would be something interesting to share — about the drive up, perhaps, or the afternoon reading I was doing at the Dauphin Public Library together with aboriginal writer Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair or the planned tour of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or dinner and lodging with friends.IMG_1788

But, unless I write fiction, there’ll be none of that. We didn’t go. All the highways to our destination were closed because of severe icy conditions, so there we sat Saturday morning just outside Winnipeg, which was as far as we’d been able to drive, making phone calls, making our decision to turn around (not a real decision, though, since there was no option but to cancel) and feeling disappointment seep into our spirits. Continue reading

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Filed under Personal, spirituality

My amazing bevy of friends

Since joining facebook, I’ve somehow managed to pick up more than four hundred friends. I checked the number this morning and was surprised. I hadn’t realized it had come to this. Quite amazing it is, for someone who signed on in order to view photos of her grandchildren and who has the typical introvert’s friendship circle of about a dozen. (Though a baker’s dozen on days I’m feeling especially ebullient.)

Then again, not that surprised either, because “fb friends” is a new category, and unique, and it matters not that it counts relatives and people I’ve never met and people I’ve not seen for three or four decades. We’ve connected in some way, we’ve validated that connection, and I’m quite satisfied to call each one a friend, even if the adjective facebook may be required for technicality’s sake. Continue reading

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Filed under Contemporary life, Personal, Technology