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Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Mixture of Frailties

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I have read that book, A Mixture of Frailties, by Robertson Davies this winter. It was published in 1958, this is my third reading. This time I did something unprecedented in my life, I actually wrote down every word I encountered that I did not know. It was a bit daunting to see how long that list was.
Here it is, and I invite anyone to give me their definition as I haven’t yet had my day with the dictionary,
paresis
protean
pedagogic
axiomatic
trochee
spondee
diphthongal
viands
nacreously
And he goes on to say that the cheese served at dinner was surly, now what does surly cheese taste like I wonder? It really is a wonderful read.

 

I don’t know.

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How many times a day do I say or think “I don’t know”? Very often. Too often? If I know so little how do I expect to write a novel? Well, since when has ignorance acted as a reason or stopped me from having an opinion?

At seventy I still feel the threads that bind me to earth. As a young woman of twenty what hopes I had of riding the wind in my earnestness, eagerness to be part of the bigger world.

Shall I tell the truth? Is truth absolute? I think not. Truth is by degree. But is the degree one of temperature or of compass points. I am looking two degrees left of true north. Is that magnetic north? I know longer remember.

The knowledge that the world has changed its magnetic poles from north to south and back and that they slip sideways as well and more than once through earth’s history pleases my imagination greatly.

But what is truth, is truth beauty?

As a woman of thirty five I felt the truth of this prose poem written one biting bitter winter afternoon.

Lila-book-001-e

Lila-book-o1-e

Lila-book-1-eLila-book-2_eLila-book-3-e                                                                                                                                                                                       Lila-book-4-e

  a few pages from my book The Why and the Beginning, dedicated to my Grandmother, Lila.

The sun’s rays illuminated the dust motes dancing on the rough wooden boards in my studio.

So even if I don’t hit the finish line one thing is sure, by the end of the month my head will be blessedly empty of the daily noise of living. All of it re-translated into fiction and set down on these pages.

When I turned fifty the world turned too. A body betrayed by hormones, a never ending debilitation of mood, senses, bodily changes. Only time heals so they say.

Now at eighty I eat little, vegetable barley soup with bread and butter. How I do appreciate a slice of bread and butter with almost everything; soup, a steak, apple sauce, a bowl of fresh berries, fried lake perch. When growing up bread and butter (well margarine actually) filled out every meal.

Re-reading Dear Theo – In Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother he talks about running out of money. In his excitement he over spent on having his work framed.  But then his life was never as important to him as his painting.

So for days and days he lived on coffee and crusts of bread. I expect also wine and tobacco. Surely this would alter the chemistry in the brain? If, as they tell us every seven years all the cells in our bodies have died and been replaced why do we remain so much the same?

The World here is very quiet.

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It is true silence is golden. But that will not help my wanting to count 50,000 words. Still I guess I’ve slowed down. It never has taken a very big push to knock me off balance. Very easy, simplest thing in the world in fact.

My favorite work of Picasso’s was always the woman ironing from his blue period. Only seen it in reproduction but it touched me deeply. Possibly the subject matter as well, those endless domestic chores that wear  women’s self away to nothingness, the toil of their existence, the unending ness of it, the repetition of it, the futility of it.

Ironing was one of those chores I refused to do except for very special social occasions – the queen, that was an experience not easily forgotten. When Chris became a Canadian, wonderful moving ceremony, over forty different countries represented. All so proud of themselves and their new country. How we should all feel about citizenship. The wedding, which was very lovely, even to Chris crying at the altar.  Meeting the governor general and the American ambassador. Too tough that was, I never get the social etiquette right. We are both clueless about these things.

I can remember mom keeping dad’s white shirts damp in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic to be ironed. Then she had to starch the collars.

The collars. She spent a lot of time on that board pushing that iron around.  At least by then it was an electric iron and not one heated by coal or wood. All those Victorian flounces with flat irons – the rich sure have no idea about  the sheer labour involved in things.

Does it still matter? Perhaps not. There will always be big parts of life missing from memory. What did I do last week for instance? You just live, really. The motion of it, the chores of it, the enjoyment of it, the flow, even the rhythm of it. The past is past, a faraway country – you cannot live there. To visit too often in imagination, memory, is to rob yourself of the present moment which is all we have of life.

 

Lila Knitting

Lila Knitting