Saturday, October 30, 2010

Editing (and) What I Wore

You may be right: perhaps this skirt is too extravagant to wear to class. But you know that "Fake it 'til You Make it" mantra? Sometimes a bold cheery exterior can pull along a recalcitrant interior -- or at least cover for it!

I'd assumed I'd wear this with brown tights and a brown shoe, but went to bed without locating the tights. In the morning, with no time to spare, it turned out that the only brown tights I could put my hands on were footless. Rejecting my brown slouch boots as, well, too slouchy and my better-fitted black ones as too black, I decided to try a nude leg with these favourite bought-in-Paris-years-ago shoes. I'm not sure either works with the skirt, but overall I like the combo -- although now I'm hankering for brown/tan boots, knee-high, fitted. . .
Skirt: Robert Rodriguez, bought on sale at Holt's the summer before last
Sweater: Banana Republic
Shoes: Paris store that might begin with "C"?? somewhere in St. Germain, around Rue de Dragon, Rue du Four . . . I love a bit of history with my shoes . . .

Other than a long run this morning (20+km, the peak of training for the half I hope to run next month) and a quick flip through the pages of The Globe and Mail, my weekend's mostly going to be dedicated to a big stack of marking -- and actually, reading The Globe and marking student papers are so far yielding a surprising number of errors -- at least my students can rightfully complain that they don't have an editor; not so (I hope!) for The Globe's journalists.

What about you? Any particular weekend fun you're up to? Halloween parties? Crazy costumes?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Working to the Light

Still working to find the happy. And it's here, in small doses, if I look hard. Light on the horizon and all that.

Evidence that even in winter there will be life -- these Mahonia japonica buds will burst into a yellow wheel of fragrance sometime in January or February.

And yesterday's fierce battle to keep my tears in check in public (I lost, but not for long) was balanced by two wonderful visits with really engaged, bright students -- one, going through his own tough stuff, nevertheless kept up his side of an intense discussion of critical theory's place in his sorting out a relationship with the world; the other, a student I taught over a year ago, stopped by for tea and a long talk about what language and writing mean to her, a poet and avid reader, and about the possibilities for adventure that she sees in this century's many challenges. Both students moved me because they live with such integrity, rejecting the programmed and superficial obvious. They give me hope. And hope makes me happy. But you knew that, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weekend Good Stuff

Of course, it's not all sadness all weekend around here. Friday night, for example, I was very pleased to arrive home from work and find these little beauties sitting on a plate: Basil Ricotta Gnocchi. To celebrate his retirement, our kids gave Pater a series of cooking lessons at The Dirty Apron cooking school in Vancouver, and so far I've been the prime beneficiary.

The gnocchi are from the Italian class, and they were melt-in-your-mouth perfection. After they spent a moment or two in that boiling water bath, they were scooped out to be dressed with some olive oil.
They shared headlines with a magnificent sauce featuring these chanterelles. . .

alongside some beautifully seasoned lamb chops. And a glass of Cab. Sauv., if I remember correctly. I'm usually brain-dead by Friday night, although this went some way toward reviving me.


Not enough, unfortunately, to remind me to get my camera out for the pièce de résistance, the crème brulée. Delicious, with pistachio-lemon flavouring. And happily, Pater was very dissatisfied with the fact that it wasn't properly set. Why happily? Because he tried again to perfect it on Saturday night. When it didn't set again, but was appreciated just as much by me.

We've consulted a few books and websites, and suspect the solution is in checking the oven temp and playing with the makeshift bain marie. And practise, practise, practise. See? Not all sadness (I can do fake jaunty with the best of them!)

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn comes before Winter, Yes it does . . .

Although I don't want to dwell on it too much, because it impinges on others' privacy, I've been grappling with some intense, if occasional, sadness lately, sadness that seems to hit regularly on weekends when I have time to slow down for it. While my life overall is full of good things, I can't help but react to the effects of aging on both my mother and my mother-in-law: my mom is fortunate in her physical health and able to walk vigorously and often; my mother-in-law's joint pain keeps her confined very close to home; both women are experiencing Mild Cognitive Impairment, with my MIL sinking very quickly into a state which will require changed living arrangements for her and my FIL.
Because my mother and I are only 22 years apart, I can't help but occupy her role imaginatively, although I recognize the many, many differences between us. I've battled much less with depression, am much more outgoing, set intellectual and cognitive challenges for myself much more vigorously. We are not the same; her present is not my future. Still, what I fear we may share, what I catch myself anticipating defensively, is that dismissal, even irritation --at best condescension-- that I admit I've sometimes directed at both older women, as have my sibs and my sibs-in-law. Perhaps it's only the guilt I feel at my own impatience, dismissal, condescension, but I begin to detect traces of it aimed at me, by my own kids -- poetic justice!
Rose glauca hips

After decades of playing such a vital role in my children's lives, their calls come less and less regularly, and I try to find a way to stay connected without wearing out my welcome. One friend has adopted a policy of never calling hers, of waiting for them to make the phone call. This might work for her, but given that my mother may have called me five times in my entire adult life -- and I have siblings who might put their number even lower -- I'm wary of such an approach. Still, I have a super-sensitive ear and any hint of impatience at my call means a long delay before the next one (meanwhile, unanswered voicemail or e-mail or Facebook messages land me in a no-man's-land of waiting for that tennis ball to bounce back into my side of the court, even though everyone has obviously left the park . . .)
If any of you have watched Brothers and Sisters, you might know that I dread being the kind of mom that Sally Fields plays -- her kids love her, but roll their eyes at her among themselves. Where's the dignity?! Before that, Ruth on Six Feet Under made me shudder at the recognition that her role represents a broad social perception of the "middle-aged mother of adult children." I do NOT want to go gladly into that dark night!

Viburnum tinus berries
I'm not sure what, if any, solution can be found to this inevitable role change. Part of what I'm feeling, I suspect, is simply a long-delayed response to the Empty Nest -- while our Nest has been formally empty for quite a few years now, the fledglings have still wanted support -- a shoulder to cry on, if only through a long-distance phone call; a loan or other form of financial aid; advice about formatting a job resumé; a query about how to handle a difficult co-worker; occasionally, an 11 p.m. call from someone who needs to check a Trivia or Scrabble question from across the country. Now -- and I'm truly happy this is the case -- other important people fill this role: their partners, friends, trusted colleagues. With busy lives establishing careers, furnishing new homes, juggling daycare drop-offs with board meetings, thee independence we wanted for them has the should-have-been-obvious corollary that we see much less of them.

Out in the garden this weekend, I sought a happier perspective on the beauties of this stage, the autumn of my life. Berries and richly-coloured leaves reflect the vibrancy of this period, and although I see the portents of winter all 'round, I am not yet at my mother's or MIL's place in life. While my children, part of my harvest, are wonderful adults with their own thriving lives to focus on, there are other gardens to be busy in: I'm so much more fortunate than mom, who gave up her teaching career when she had children, or my MIL, who retired from hers much earlier than she wanted to in order to keep my FIL company. I have satisfying, engaging work that tells me I'm meaningful to a broader community, even on those days when my kids find me mother-irritating. And I have a partner who wouldn't dream of asking me to give that up simply to keep him company. There are no guarantees of what winter may or may not bring -- meanwhile, I'll do my best to squeeze the most out of my autumn.

I am curious to know, though, if any of you have experienced any of these responses -- My sense is that I'm a bit older than many of my readers, and because I had my children fairly young, I suspect I've entered a different stage of the mother-child relationship than many of you (mine are 25 to 34). Or, instead, to know if you've noticed this tendency to find mothers irritating, even while loving them dearly -- and if you have come to any resolutions about how you'll negotiate this stage when you do get to it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stormy Weather and Sunny Afternoons

Last night's 70-kilometre/hour winds tested the tarping system covering our roof. Paul was out there in the afternoon, re-attaching the tarp in various spots where the winds had torn it away, and there were several points in the night when we woke and listened to that Aeolian howl and its ferocious attack on the plastic sheet -- astounding how much noise a flapping piece of plastic can make. But a check this morning showed that most of the cover had stayed in place to do its job; only one small leak had resulted in a manageable indoor puddle. The skylights should go in over the next few days, the plywood sheets put on the roof, and then the shingles and we'll be done.

The rain's coming in bursts now with prolonged and welcome interruptions of sunshine -- in the next of those sunny patches I'll try to get out and survey the storm damage in terms of branches and other garden debris. But meanwhile, I have some photos from yesterday afternoon when things were still calm. Above and below, the rich sinuous patterns on an old yew tree we were fortunate enough to inherit, a native tree that I treasure for its reminder, in my garden, that we're here as caretakers only.
And the big-leaf maple, of course, does the same thing. I can't imagine anyone planting one deliberately in a city-sized garden, but over here you'd have to be awfully vigilant to keep it out. Every spring, hundreds of volunteer seedlings make themselves known, and every few years we realize one of those seedlings didn't get evicted in time. As weedy as they might be, though, it's hard to regret the tree's shade in summer, its colour display in fall, and its bare architecture in winter. (My gardening neighbour, Jane, celebrates the broad-leaf maples lyrically over here.)

Nearby, the maple leaves are echoed in a much dainter version -- this cut-leaf Japanese maple is a brilliant chartreuse in the spring and an equally arresting mix of colour in the fall.

Plus I love its spreading shape, romantically illuminated here by this watery fall sunshine.

That misty light is equally transformative of this Miscanthus.
I'm afraid this will be a garden photo week -- I couldn't resist snapping shots of the berries yesterday, nor could I resist admiring purples . . . you'll see. . .

Friday, October 22, 2010

Opera Continues . . . and some What I Wore

The Vancouver Opera Blog posted this photo of my fellow bloggers and me at last Saturday's World Premiere of Lillian Alling. Great news: Social Media Manager Ling Chan asked me to join them for the rest of the season, and I'll be blogging to you next about Lucia di Lammermoor.

And here's my What I Wore for this week. Yes, I'm debating about the dress' length as well, and I almost consigned or gave it away at the end of last winter. But I'm feeling a bit defiant about the whole "I'm too old to wear that," even as I'm wary of looking foolish. (There's a great post about Shopping and "I'm Too Old" here). And while the length and the black-red contrast may be a bit dramatic, the rest of the outfit is relatively restrained -- although high-contrast, it's a limited palette, the lines are simple, the adornment limited. And best of all, it's easy to wear, great to build an outfit around very quickly. I'd love to find another sweater dress as well shaped through the middle (this has some cleverly subtle distractions) but just a bit longer -- until I do, I will probably hang on to this one.
Pater approved, although he's a dangerous yardstick to trust in this regard.
Dress: Helmut Lang, bought on sale 2 winters ago; Beads: Birks; Cuff: Local Boutique, Israeli artisan-made, 3 years old; Cherry Red Tights: Hue; and Black Boots: Fluevog Truth Britneys. I'm holding a cherry-red alpaca lace scarf that I wore for warmth when I needed it, whipping it off when I got overheated.



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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fog and Gateways and Life, Moving on . . .

All through the night, the freighter sitting within a few hundred metres of my bedroom has been sounding its foghorn. This is a very loud foghorn. Luckily, I was tired enough that I slept through most of it, except for a few times in the night when I woke, wondered, recognized, and, reassured, fell back to sleep. After all, if you're stationary, and in a cozy warm spot, there's nothing threatening about fog. Rather the opposite, in fact, that muffling enveloping grey being something of an immense security blanket.
Still, comforting though that grey bank of humidity might be from the comfort of my bed, it can put more than a bit of a damper (sorry, pun not intended) on the mood in the daytime. So I thought I'd post some sunny-day photos from a few weeks ago, walking around the island.
This beautiful hand-wrought gate was built by a Hungarian refugee who landed on this wee island sometime after that big outpouring in the late 50s, as I understand the gossip/history. He moved along close to a decade ago (and there's another good story there, but not for sharing so widely, sorry). The property has changed hands, and for a while was kept up, but it seems to be reverting to the land piece by piece, yielding a different kind of beauty as it does.
And as its cycle moves in one direction, another neighbour is spinning the wheel in a more positive arc, creating another beautiful fence by hand. Isn't it magnificent in the afternoon fall sunshine?

Whoops! Just looked at the clock and I'd better run if I'm going to catch my ferry. Hope there's some sunshine in your day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Different View From Here -- Reno Drama

Lest the whole opera thing is fooling you that I live a terribly glam life (ha!), here's the current view from my kitchen -- if one looks up.
That's a lot of sky, eh? Great light to cook by, interesting intersection of all those architectural lines, but not so very warm. So far, we've been very lucky that the fall rains have held off, but it's dropping down to 5 or 6 degrees Celsius at night.

The "boys" have started stuffing batts of fibreglass in the whole at night, and Pater reassures me that the roof is tarped, but I'll feel better when the new skylight is placed into the new roof that is being built around it.
This photo was taken early last week, after the initial hole was cut, before the framing was built above it. Don't they look pleased with themselves? Our wonderful carpenter Mathieu exudes a quiet competence and a steady will to work, so I'm actually quite comfortable with the whole process. Glad I'm at work all day, though, and that by the time I get home the mess is cleaned up and Pater has dinner on the stove.

Meanwhile, a second hole has been cut in the main-floor bathroom for another skylight. Hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the twitch I've developed around my left eye. Or the cold sore on my lip. . .

But at least the weather is still fabulous -- one more day, according to the forecast, and then the rains begin. So I'm off for what may be the last fall-sunshine run and then those two tough workdays. When I re-emerge on Friday, I'll see what I can muster in the way of a What I Wore post -- if I can get my cameraman down off that roof!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

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