Pajamas day

After a week like the last — with our Toronto children and grandchildren here, and thus the entire family together (the others are local) — I felt the need for a pajamas day, or half of one at least. By which I mean more or less doing nothing. On a pajamas day, I may or may not actually be in my pajamas — it’s more a state of mind and body: rest mode and absolutely not beginning Next Tasks. I was tired. Surprisingly tired. Realizing again I’m older than I used to be. My husband was tired too. Even though it was our anniversary when the week ended, we told ourselves we’d celebrated all week and could easily stay home and be quietly happy that we’d managed 45 years. We sank into that satisfying tiredness that follows days of steady going and going and giving and getting. The energy had been there, adequate for all the week’s occasions, but once done, only pleasant ache remained.

I needed time too to sit a while in gratitude. It was such a good week.

I noticed something in this gathering. The adult children were in charge. We two olders had been slotted into their care as well. Sure, we did some meals and hosting and planning, but these were moves in a larger game others were running. It wasn’t uncomfortable either, but I felt the shift: being sort of central still as “heads” of this particular family but practically speaking, de-centralized and free to not be responsible. Free to submit to their competence. I remember this transition happening in my own family of origin, as my siblings and I matter-of-factly took over from Mom and Dad. Now it’s our turn in that position, and unexpectedly, it’s fine.



It’s been warm — today will be too, the forecast says — but it cools down at night, enough to sleep comfortably when we open windows wide. By mid-morning we’re closing them again, also the curtains, to hold in what the night gave us, and then we wait for evening when we can open again. So it goes, day by day, the small rhythms of summer. Opening and closing. Watering the balcony petunias and geraniums, harvesting the balcony tomatoes, trying to trap fruit flies. The blackberries have started, big and abundant this year, so H and I haunt our sites with our containers. Sunday we took advantage of an invitation to pick apples at a farm, so now we’re making applesauce, and maybe today I’ll make pie-by-the-yard. Our freezer is apartment sized, but I still have this impulse to harvest and store for the winter as if we have a family to feed and a huge freezer to fill! I still “feel” it the way I did as a child and then the mother of school kids, July and August allowing all kinds of difference and flexibility. (As with regular blog posts, for example!) McDonalds has ice cream cones for $1 all summer, so more times than I want to admit, we wander over there mid-afternoon or evening, because it’s a nice walk and the ice-cream is actually very good. (Plus $1 is a deal!) We have company to look forward to in August, most especially our Toronto kids for a week, so my blogging will likely continue in flexible mode. Ah yes, wonderful summer. I don’t mean there aren’t regular matters like H’s frequent (it seems) doctor’s appointments, nor that sadness stops in honour of the season, witness the shootings this weekend, but summer does seem a time for extra gratitude.

The impulses of spring

One day this week I bought and transferred fledgling geraniums and petunias into balcony pots. In the evening I realized I’d probably gone overboard with things, twice as many geraniums this year as last, besides a pretty over-wintered shrub, two trays of petunias, a tub of creamy yellow pansies, not to mention H’s roses and his soon-to-be potted tomatoes and likely (come Mother’s Day) a hanging basket or two. I remembered, too late obviously, that though these plants would grow into a glorious display, they would need to be watered and tended and tidied for months and months. I remembered their daily water would have to be carried from the kitchen sink and through the living room because there’s no tap out there. (Our balcony faces south and west; the sun absolutely devours the moisture.)

I blame spring. In our part of the world blossoms are blossoming, magnolia trees are heavy with flowers, it’s warm. And spring is impulsive, indiscriminate, extravagant. Spring is powerful and I responded as if over-powered. Even though I knew (if I’d stopped to think) that just beyond spring, summer would have to take care of all that bursting-forth and happiness, would have to bring it to maturity. Would have to be responsible. Manage it into the future and its final stages in fall.

I couldn’t help thinking about the commitments one takes on in the flush of youth or in ongoing or periodic bursts of ambition and energy. Partners, children, friendships, careers/vocations, projects, service. We start and there it is: we’re responsible. But no matter how old, we keep starting, because it’s spring and the call of the new and the potential for glorious is irresistible.


Ageism in publishing

I’ve been thinking about an article posted by a Facebook friend: “The route to literary success: be young, gifted but most of all gorgeous.” The same friend quoted from the Quill and Quire: “Ageism is a dirty little secret in the Canadian publishing world. I know at least a couple of people who generated a great deal of interest from publishers until the acquiring editor asked…how old they were.”

As a writer with a novel manuscript that’s good to go, this gave me pause. One has to work awfully hard on the gifted side of things nowadays, competing in a sea of enormously talented writers, but to have to score on young and gorgeous too? For women writers of my ilk, it’s like trying to sit on a three-legged stool with two of the legs missing.

I don’t know how much ageism — specific or subconscious — actually occurs in publishing. But if it’s there — speaking now as a reader not writer — it profoundly misjudges audiences. There are a lot of us keen older readers, for one thing. I recall that events at Winnipeg’s annual literary festival, THIN AIR, which I attended when I lived there, were filled with women, and many, perhaps the majority, were middle-aged or older.

Further, I and older readers of my acquaintance know there are brilliant, beautiful young writers, some with uncanny depth, and we’ll read them with admiration if they satisfy, but it’s the satisfy factor that matters, some essential integrity in the work apart from everything else. We don’t mind if authors are ordinary-looking, men or women, old or even dead, as long as the words they’ve written shine with at least some extraordinary light.