We visited Kev’s family for the long weekend. Lucky for us, they live just down the road from this spectacular tourist attraction: Jones’ Falls locks on the Rideau Canal. That’s a view of one of the locks, above, and it’s on top of the hill, with this big reservoir that feeds the lower locks (not pictured). The reservoir is a great place to swim. Even when it’s not that hot out.
The kids had fun getting me to photograph them jumping in.
Then we tried to get everyone jumping in at once. CJ had to think about it for awhile. He had a lot of encouragement.
Here we go!
(Kevin and I swam too, but no one got photos of that, which was probably a good thing, since I insisted on wearing my swim cap and goggles. My swim cap is bright orange. Every time I put it on, I wonder why I chose that colour??)
And now for some obligatory adorable cousins-together photos. C’mon, you know you want to say awwwww.
The weekend’s entertainment also included a round of par-three golf (Kev and the older kids), a 21.6km run on a gorgeous trail (me, with Kev accompanying on bicycle), and a whole lot of backyard badminton and soccer (pictured below).
Goodbye, farm. We’re headed home to new adventures that must wait for another day’s telling.
the bonfire of the schoolwork
beach bound with dogs, who behave superbly–guess we can take them anywhere!; water’s cold, and wind’s chilly, but you’d never know
hosted by my bro and sis-in-law, we all play “Pit” late at night and mid-morning (no photos); and I lounge half the day reading Agatha Christie (also no photos)
We’ve been off this weekend. Both kids played in soccer tournaments. I’ve still got my own game to come this evening. I’m a bit soccered out, truth be told, so let’s see if my enthusiasm holds over for a few more hours, in what looks like it might be rain.
I was thinking today that soccer tournaments had become part of my interior landscape: the jam-packed parking, the noise, the music, the sight of game upon game, the whistles, the cheers and cries, and the bright team colours. I saw my kids come out to play. They didn’t come to watch, they came to engage, and that was a joy to witness.
Unfortunately, I forgot to pull out the little camera after the opening moments of the first game. And my real camera’s memory card is broken, so I lost the other photos from the past week (some fun ones of the kids making boats for a bathtub race, and of CJ showing me his new tricks on the parallel bars: all gone.)
This coming week is so jam-packed that you may suspect I’ve decided never to blog again, again. It’s the last week for nursery school, I’m heading to Toronto to meet with an editor, we’ve got soccer games galore, swimming, there’s a county track meet, a kindergarten picnic, several appointments at the allergist, and that only takes us to Thursday. So …
Here is Fooey’s photo of her giant Duplo tower, right before I made her take it down. You’ll note that I was on a mission to clear the living-room and vacuum up the dog hair — someone is shedding right now. The mission was sparked by another mission to find a lost library book. I turned the house upside down searching, finally admitted defeat and stopped in at the library on my way between running children to picnics and soccer games and back again that evening. I spent about fifteen minutes searching the library’s shelves — and lo and behold, there was the lost book! That was my entire Thursday in a nutshell: minor complications solved with some effort and irritation on my part.
It’s nice to have something every day to look forward to, amidst the busyness. I often find many somethings, the moments when I’m relaxed into the scene at hand (say, lunch!), aware that more needs to be done, but not going there yet. I try not to go anywhere until I need to, literally or figuratively. I think that’s why all of this busyness never feels like too much.
Sunday at the farm
My Monday contains an early morning yoga class, the coordinating of this week’s many details, a really good bowl of soup for lunch, a finalized book contract to sign and send (details coming, I promise), and eight loads of laundry (no exaggeration).
This past weekend we travelled north of Kingston on Saturday, home again on Sunday, to visit with Kevin’s family, some of whom had come all the way from Scotland.
Badminton was the popular sport, with soccer coming a close second.
There was even a baby to hold.
Our visit was preceeded by a minor home renovation. On Friday, I realized that our front hall reeked. The smell was distinctly dog, and I don’t know how to describe it other than to say, come smell our carpet, which, trust me, you really don’t want to do. In any case, you can’t. Friday afternoon, tormented by the smell, I abandoned my office to scrub the carpet before leaping to the sudden conclusion that the carpet had to go. Like, now. I vacuumed the rest of the house in an attempt to bring order to the chaos that had become instantly apparent to me, everywhere, not just in the front hall. And on Friday night, after we’d packed and the kids were all in bed, and we should have been too, Kevin and I ripped up the carpet. Lo and behold, the wood floor beneath was pristine, and after a late-night scrubbing, reeked of nothing at all. I find it funny how often Kevin and I make snap decisions, together, that feel absolutely right. It seems to be how we operate.
Let me ask you a question about cleanliness. Would you agree that women are still judged on the cleanliness of their homes, while men (even those who participate fully in household chores) are not? I think it’s true. I would like it not to be. (She says, heading down to the basement to deal with laundry load number 6. Only two more to go!)
Someone got glasses.
All four kids had cavities filled at the dentist. (Popsicles only incidentally implicated.)
Kev and I cleaned the house and yard (not pictured).
I baked a cake. (Party cake # 1!)
Twelve candles were blown out.
Soccer girl and mama went on a road trip. Too much sun. Too much chlorine. Hotel dreams. Big saves in net, sweet passes from the wing, and a game-winning goal. One proud mama, too tired to type more than this.
But tomorrow’s a holiday, may we all sleep in.
over the Rockies
Is this going to be a long post? I have a funny feeling that it might be. However, the process of writing it is being somewhat interrupted by a very chatty four-year-old who is sitting in the rocking chair in a patch of sunlight beside me. And so I am attempting to compose this post while simultaneously maintaining a conversation on a variety of topics. Right now we are on the seasons: “And it goes round again and again, again.”
Don’t it, though.
Granville Island hotel
Travelling is such a strange thing to do. Being somewhere else. Being away. There is the transition, the waiting, the getting there; and then there is the being there, when home feels like a dream. Travelling solo is particularly strange, and, I must admit, quite easy to get used to, at least for short patches. On my own, I’m only myself, with only me took after. The responsibility seems so light.
It was an especially lovely trip, from beginning to end. It seemed blessed with lucky moments. I walked into the airport in Toronto on Thursday morning, and the first person I saw was my friend and former boss Noah Richler. What are the chances? He was off to Alberta (have you heard? — his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War, is a finalist for the GG in the non-fiction category). I then met up with Heather Birrell, another literary friend (Mad Hope); but that had been pre-planned. We were on the same flight to Vancouver, and managed to get seats near each other. Neither of us are happy fliers, and our flight experienced a lot of turbulence. She was seated behind me and she reported that every time we hit turbulence, my head would pop up: apparently my spine stiffens when fear strikes. But we survived. I brought headphones and watched three movies. I’m not ashamed to report that two of them were children’s movies: Brave, and Madagascar 3. Brave was EXCELLENT, plus I cried (I was in the middle seat; and I think we’ve now established I may be the kind of fellow passenger you’d rather not be stuck sitting beside, what with the weeping and the palpable terror). I dozed off during Madagascar 3, after which I started a very long melodrama called People Like Us, but then the plane landed and I missed seeing the last ten minutes (and it wasn’t the kind of movie I wanted to experience twice). Heather filled me in on the plot.
We were in Vancouver!
Okay, let me interrupt to explain that nearly an hour has passed since I first began typing this post. Maybe this should be a two-parter, a multi-chapter saga? I’ve only just gotten to Vancouver, for heaven’s sake. And it’s nearly time to pick up my swimming child from the pool.
I’m going to speed this up by doing some name-dropping. Walked into the hotel, first person I saw was Sheree Fitch (Night Sky Wheel Ride): big hugs. (But then we didn’t see each other again; this happens at festivals, with people coming and going.) Good thing I had Heather to introduce me to some more writers: we were soon headed for dinner with Jessica Westhead (And Also Sharks) who was travelling with her husband and their brand-new seven-week-old daughter (whom I never got to hold, dammit). We were also joined by Emily Schultz (The Blondes), whose book I’d reviewed for the Globe back in August.
After dinner, Heather and I went to see Anne Perry and her biographer Joanne Drayton being interviewed on-stage. We were both toast at this point, our bodies telling us that it was nearly midnight, so we debriefed in the morning over breakfast at the Granville market, after which we got very lost, after which it was time for our morning events. I’d woken at 4am, been unable to fall back to sleep, and got the front desk to open the exercise room for me so I could run/spin.
outside my hotel room, Friday morning
My first event was with Riel Nason (The Town That Drowned) and Marjorie Celona (Y), moderated by Shaena Lambert (Radiance). I had a moment of panic while prepping and felt incapable of choosing the right section to read, but it all turned out fine. We spent the hour and a half reading and talking about child narrators, among other things, and the feeling in the room was just lovely. Afterward, I signed books, and one of the women who sat down to talk to me said, “I’ve never wanted a character to win an award before, but I just really want Juliet to win.” Nice, hey.
Chris Cleave, me, and Annabel Lyon, backstage (photo taken by Marsha Lederman)
I had about twenty minutes between events to freshen up and eat a banana, and then I was back at it. This one was in a large theatre with Annabel Lyon (The Sweet Girl) and Chris Cleave (Gold). We were each interviewed by Marsha Lederman, and then came onstage together at the end to answer questions. What can I say about this event, other than it confirmed for me that I really love being onstage. I’ll admit it. Onstage is a great place to be. It requires the burning of lots of energy, and there’s an element of risk to it, but if you know me, you’ll know I like burning energy. The risk part, well, maybe I’m drawn to that too, a bit.
Something else about being onstage: I’ve learned that it’s no good wishing I were different. To be comfortable, all I have to be is myself. I love watching those performers who are quick with witty anecdotes, but that’s not me; and that’s okay too. We’re all different. When I’m in the audience, I want to see a real person up there, not someone pretending to be someone they’re not. I think that’s the only secret, honestly.
outside my hotel room, Friday afternoon
After that happy shiny event, I went for fries and a beer with Marita Daschel (Initiation Trilogy); we met through the blog a few years ago, and though we’d never seen each other face-to-face, nor spoken, it was like being with an old friend.
Walking into the hotel, the first person I saw was Sarah MacLachlan (my publisher at Anansi). We were meeting for dinner in less than an hour. I grabbed a quick rest, took a hot bath, and let myself come down from the day’s excitement, to unwind, though not completely.
this is how much I unwound
Sarah had invited Anansi people out for dinner at the Sand Bar. I knew no one except for her. Seated around the table were (more name-dropping ahead): Rawi Hage (Carnival), Madeliene Thien (Simple Recipes), Anosh Irani (The Song of Kahunsha), Pasha Malla (People Park), a young woman named Thea whose story collection with be published by Anansi soon (sorry re lack of details), me, A.L. Kennedy (The Blue Book), Graham Gibson ( The Bedside Book of Birds; he’s also known as Margaret Atwood’s husband; she was stuck in transit and couldn’t be there), and Dennis Lee (Alligator Pie). I was seriously crashing at this point, glazed eyes and brain, and thankful for light conversation from the women seated near me. After dinner, Sarah and I dashed off to hear A.L. Kennedy read (and I do know her name is Alison, but can’t help but think of her by her initials).
at dinner; and an accurate illustration of how my brain was behaving, at this point in the day
The evening ended in the writers fest hospitality suite where thankfully Heather came after I texted her an SOS — I knew no one and was feeling like a wilting wallflower. But I also didn’t want the day to end. Of course, it finally had to (I’d been up since 4am after all). All that was left was a short night’s sleep, a morning walk in a hailstorm to fetch breakfast at the market, and the packing up.
I spent yesterday travelling. I enjoyed a quiet peaceful flight with no spine stiffening moments. On the ride home from the airport I met an international trade specialist and an expert in honeybees. And now I am holding my sad four-year-old whose sister just stepped on him, probably because I am writing this blog rather than paying attention. So it is time to stop typing and to pay attention.
Tomorrow (Monday) I’m in Toronto for a reading at IFOA. Anyone coming?