Wednesday, May 20, 2015

door decorations

The doorstop to my room is made of two railroad spikes and a horseshoe. It comes from Texas.

The door knocker is Little Nell herself. She comes from Scotland. And yes, you should have a door knocker at the entrance to your study.

Monday, May 18, 2015

pottery in the topsoil / horse at a gas station

I went for my first long cycle of the year today. By long, I mean 30 k, which is long enough for a middle-aged woman with a cardiac history. We headed out along the Lachine Canal, where once shipping, warehouses, and industry reigned.

The Lachine Canal path eventually connects with the St. Lawrence River. We did the loop and cycled home.

Today is a holiday in Canada. When I was growing up in Ontario, it was called Victoria Day. I believe it still is. Queen Victoria's birthday. She was born in 1819. Talk about colonial servitude! Here in Quebec it's currently called Fête des Patriotes, which I'm not going to explain because it might well be called something else in a few years.
When I was a kid, the holiday was marked by fireworks, which I miss because I like fireworks. On my own personal calendar it was also the day I first got kissed. I was 12 yrs old. A boy by the name of ...? walked me home from fireworks at the baseball diamond. When I turned into my driveway, he grabbed me by the shoulders and kissed me roughly, then shoved me away and said, "You're no fun." I've never forgotten the words nor the tone. I am probably still "no fun". I can only suppose that people who like me aren't looking for "fun". I have always wished I could let ...? know that I didn't find him "fun" either.

I did some work in my garden this weekend. My arugula, beets, carrots, onions, and snow peas are up. My rhubarb threatens to take over the garden which, so far, is okay, because we love rhubarb. I was emptying a few bags of topsoil that we bought at the hardware store and found this in two separate bags, which makes me wonder where the soil comes from.

Yesterday when R and I were out walking along Notre Dame--a fairly busy street in Montreal--we heard the prolonged whinny of a horse. There was a gas station on the corner, and there was the horse. Note that he was not at the pumps. He was outside the convenience store. A man stood next to him, holding his halter. Both were standing calmly, except that the horse kept whinnying. Or maybe it was neighing. I'm not familiar with horses, so I don't know the difference between a neigh and a whinny, but I just listened to both on Youtube and they sound much the same to my horse-uneducated ears. The horse did not seem to be in distress, but he kept calling until we had walked beyond being able to hear him.

As we got closer to home, I stopped in a store to buy milk. The young woman at the cash was wearing a 1960s green and white gingham baby doll nightie. I wasn't sure if it might be a dress, so I stood on my tiptoes (I'm short) to see behind the counter. It brushed her upper thighs. It was a nightie. 

If I were to describe scenes like this in fiction, no one would believe them. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

story in The New Quarterly

A gracious thank you to The New Quarterly for publishing a story I wrote after a visit to Berlin in 2013.
I was walking through the Berlinische Galerie, looking at the paintings of artists whose work was repressed during the rise to power of the Nationalsozialisten in the 1930s. There were letters in display cases, pages stamped with a now-faded eagle gripping a swastika. The letters were utterly polite yet tense with menace, telling museum directors that the very paintings, which were no longer allowed to be displayed in German museums should, however, fetch a high price on the foreign market. There were lists of paintings by Kokoschka, Munch, Nolde, Dix, and more with prices beside them.
The paintings seem to have been sold, since all had a figure next to the suggested selling price with a date in ink. The ink had bled but I could make out a couple of 1937s.
The works of the artists, who had been denigrated as insane, morally corrupt, worthless members of society, were being used to fill the nation's coffers.

I knew I wanted to write a story about these letters--but didn't yet know what that story would be--and visited the museum three times to copy out the letters, word by word, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to read them off my camera.

Here's a link to order a print or digital version of the magazine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I won't be around much longer, so you should...

Last week I was sitting in a café listening to a conversation between a middle-aged woman and her elderly parents. I thought the woman was being remarkably patient with her querulous parents. They wanted more milk for their tea than they'd been given. She got them more milk. Then they began complaining about the pastries. Mum said hers was too dry and she wanted Dad to agree. She nagged at him until he did. Then she said pastry often gave her indigestion. She wasn't sure she should finish hers. Nobody was forcing her. She had ordered it herself. She said she would be up all night if she had indigestion.
The daughter finally snapped, "Well, leave it. Just don't eat it."
Mum bristled. "You shouldn't talk to me like that. I won't be around much longer. You should be nicer."
Mum was faded and grey. I mean her skin. Her skin was grey. Her hair was tangerine bronze. Don't look at hair when you wonder how old a person is.
She was right. She probably wouldn't be around much longer.
But why should that be a reason to behave more kindly? It implies that when people are still going to be around for a long time--for example, children--you can treat them in whatever way you want.
Being around for a long time or a short time doesn't ultimately matter. Everyone is deserving of respect.
With the family above, I believe it was the daughter who wasn't getting it.