July 29, 2004

Just the facts

Did you know: 73% of people prefer to roll their toilet paper down from the top. It seems that many of those 73% think it is the “right” way and, I being one of the 27% who was brought up to have it rolled from the bottom and have been continuing the family tradition, find that people who come to visit me often change the roll so that it is their way. O well. So I just change it back.

Posted by leya at 09:29 PM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2004


What makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl? At birth we look at the genitalia. As the child grows we expect certain behaviors (whatever our societal expectations might be) related to sex. Intersex is a term referring to people whose genitals have both male and female traits. I had never heard the word before this morning. It is one of the taboo subjects of the medical world and society at large. For such people the abiding wounds of shame and secrecy accompany them throughout their lives.

There was an interview on The Current (on CBC radio) this morning of Curtis Hinkle, a fifty-two-year-old living in South Carolina (who was in Montreal on a speaking tour). He is an activist lobbying to allow intersexed people to decide for themselves what changes are made to their bodies. Usually surgical intervention is performed before a child is old enough to become aware that their genitalia are different from what is considered the norm. In fact, it is a biological reality that 1 in 2,000 children are known to be born with an unusual sexuality, possibly parts of both sexes simultaneously.

This man said that he was surgically defined as female but he never felt that was right and was often reprimanded for obstreperous behavior as a child. (Translated that would mean he had the energy of a traditional boy.) He is now living as a man and comfortable with himself. (I missed the first part of his interview so I cannot fill in too many details but I think I heard that he has been married for twenty-five years.)

The question of gender identity is never black and white. There are many shades of boy and girl. Not all boys act alike; not all girls act alike. And that’s what makes horse racing, as my mother would have said.

When each of my children were about a year old, I gave them the same toy. (I hope you don’t mind my telling this story again, Tamar, even though you have heard it many times!) It was a platform on wheels with pegs and balls that could be stacked on top of each other on the platform. Tamar would sit there for an hour at a time stacking and restacking, fascinated by the different configurations she could make. When I gave the same toy to Aaron, at the same age, he immediately took his hand and pushed the toy as hard as he could to make it move. So he is a boy and she is a girl and they had standard boy and girl responses at that age. But that is not all there is to it, the boy and the girl. I’ve seen both of them show aggression, assertiveness, competitiveness, vulnerability, sensitivity, compassion, irregardless of being boy or girl. People are very complex creatures, that’s for certain.

Posted by leya at 05:09 PM

July 27, 2004

Taking the leap........

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about regrets. Do you/I have any regrets about your/my life? Yes and no. When I said I regret buying my first house here in Nova Scotia she said that was just material things. Perhaps what I really regret is the state of mind that led me to make that kind of choice. (It was definitely the wrong place for me to be living and I put too much money into trying to make it workable and it did have serious ramifications until recently because it came from a deep misunderstanding about myself and how to conduct my life in the “adult” world.) But, I suppose, I do not regret what I have learned from the experience (and I hope, will try, never to do something like that again).

I recently read Ann Packer’s The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, an exquisitely crafted, beautifully written, thoughtful story, told in the first person, by Carrie, a twenty-three year woman who, engaged to marry her high school sweetheart, is suddenly (when he takes a dive into shallow waters, hits his head on rocks, and becomes a quadriplegic) faced with a struggle (even though the relationship was faltering anyway) between her loyalty to him and the need to follow her inner passions.

”Guilty,” I said. “I feel guilty. What does it say about me that I’d leave? What kind of person does it make me?”……….. ……..”The kind of person you are,” (her mother said)………”You do what you do. Not without consequence for other people, of course, sometimes very grave ones. But it’s not very helpful to regard your choices as a series of right or wrong moves. They don’t define you as much as you define them……….You could just as easily have stayed. But that wouldn’t make you a good person any more than leaving makes you a bad one. You’re already made, honey. That’s what I mean.” “And whose fault is that” I joked, surprisingly comforted. “I take credit for everything except your big feet.”

Carrie needs to learn the difference between walking away and moving forward. That she is not just the accumulation of the past but can be made anew over and over. Carrie wanted always to feel that there was something new up ahead. Her travels, inner and external, are intricately delineated through the details of her daily life and thoughts—from the details of sewing techniques to the observations of herself and people around her.

Carrie’s friend Lane asked her “Do you every wonder what your life would be like if your father had stayed around? If you’d even recognize it (your life)?”…………which left Carrie thinking “something along the lines of how events are so powerful—how they determine so much.”

On the deeper level of experiences, I agree it is not possible to state simply that something is good or bad, it all can be looked at from so many points of view. Yes, my life has been good when you/I add it up, the different parts. Yet so many of the parts have been so painful--created pain for me and for those close to me. So if I were to say I regretted anything, it would be the pain I have caused to those people. But since I cannot change that (and hoping not to sound like Pollyanna), all I can do is try to learn from those experiences. Because I cannot undo events, emotional or material.

Posted by leya at 06:13 PM

July 25, 2004

A day in the life.......

It’s been one of those weekends. A little of this and a lot of that. The usual studio time in the mornings, that was good. Then Yoko came over yesterday noon for a ride in my paddle-boat. After so many days of rain, we had to bail out the boat first. But it felt so good, so decadent to sit back and ride along the water, check out the neighbors back yards.


Then I went to Peggy’s Cove. Thought I was going to another jazz concert (I had gone to a really good one there last Sunday) but apparently it had been changed from Saturday to Sunday and I was planning to meet some friends there but they didn’t show up so I wandered around, enjoying one of my favorite places in the world. I don't know what it is about Peggy's Cove, but even with all the tourists there yesterday, I still find it fascinating, an unusual mixture of a real, working fishing village and a dramatic wonder of nature for tourists.




And then I returned home to enjoy another misty foggy evening and more rain again.


Posted by leya at 08:51 PM

July 22, 2004

Animal songs


Yesterday must have been Animal Day. In the morning I saw a deer in my (long) driveway, munching on the leaves of bushes. He noticed me but took his time before bounding off. Then later as I opened a window upstairs I heard a rustle in the woods and saw another (I think different) deer quickly leaping away. In the evening when Yoko and I were playing the Grieg Norwegian Dance No.I (four-hand piano) we were accompanied by a squirrel outside the window who kept time with the rhythm of the piece. When we played the Norwegian Dance No. IV, he wasn’t so interested and didn’t play with us. It didn’t have the same rhythm that the squirrel was attracted to. Amazing! We had a good laugh there!

Posted by leya at 09:26 AM

July 20, 2004

But what makes a good life....

It is so interesting how different people deal with their lives, how differently people react to circumstance. In thinking it over, so much seems to be what we are born with, our natural resources, and then, beyond that, the will to make something good (or not) come from that.

I recently met a man in Montreal (a friend of a friend) whose wife had given birth to triplets a little over a year ago (with no chemical interference, an unusual situation in itself—the dad was a twin, so that may explain it). He told me that the baby who was the smallest was actually initially the healthiest, didn’t need any medical intervention for his survival even though his birth weight was about one and a half pounds while his brothers were almost five pounds. The explanation here was that in the womb he had become accustomed to the struggle for survival, had adapted, so he had a strength that belied his small size.

My friend Raymond’s wife has a son who has always found life difficult. He was a troubled child who struggled with himself and others (even though he had a good, loving home) and has only recently, at twenty-six, begun to have any degree of stability in his behavior. On the other hand, Raymond and Lisa had fostered another child when he was nine, a child who came from a very troubled mother (on drugs). This boy was always cheerful and accomplished and even now, at nineteen, is strong and stable, coming through a painful childhood and adolescence with few apparent scars.

My dad once, late in his life, asked me how come things were so different for me than my sister, that everything seemed so much easier for her. I told him we were born different. That it’s been noticed that some babies in a nursery startle more easily, cry more, right from birth (that was me!). He agreed we were very different even as babies.

This leads me to think about my aunt Celia, my father’s sister, who had polio when she was 20, and was paralyzed from the neck down until she died of kidney failure at 45. She lived most of the time in an iron lung, one of those big old round body machines with only her head sticking out. Once, during a storm, the power went out in the hospital where she lived. Before the emergency power had time to be set into motion, she had gasped for enough air to realize that she was able to force air into her lungs in a way that would allow her to be out of the iron lung for what became eight hours at a time. She would go to the theatre, shopping, outings. Someone kindly rigged up some strings that hung down from a bar over her head so that when she blew on one, it would swing into her mouth and when she pulled it, had various responses: one was to turn pages in a book, so she could read (she also read aloud onto tapes for the blind and sold magazine subscriptions to help support herself), one opened and closed the door (her biggest fear was the door closing and no one hearing her if she needed help), another was for a telephone line especially for her, with an operator answering, hello Celia. She said she never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. She had a good life. The power of will. The power of a clear mind.


Posted by leya at 05:23 PM

July 19, 2004

Ya gotta see this!

Now I'm a dog lover, to be sure, and I almost brought a puppy home from Annapolis this weekend. Saw a sign outside a house on the way there that said they raised Golden Retrievers (I've had three so far, the last one died just three years ago, and I still miss her...but.....). But I retrieved my sanity enough to pass on by.......for a while yet.

Posted by leya at 08:46 PM

To say or not to say or what to say

After my weekend in Annapolis Royal, I went to a poetry reading by someone whom I admire. Liking the person, I so much wanted to like the poetry. But I didn’t. And I didn’t know what to say to him. Other than the usual congratulations, what to offer. So I said very little.

But at the opening reception of my exhibit there was a man (who I didn’t know) who came in with very obvious sarcastic comments about my work. Clever comments, such as: “I REALLY like this one (of the nine panel painting, the one with the most yellow, the most activity). Can I buy JUST ONE of them?”....with a smirk on his face. It was funny, light-hearted, not insulting, really.

Not everyone has to like my work. Enough people do. I do. Toni does. That helps. And I do like to know what people really think. So maybe someday I will say something to the poet. Maybe. When the time is right.


(The one my critic liked, or said he liked, was the second one down on the left. the piece is made of nine 20" squares, so it is 5' x 5')

Posted by leya at 06:14 PM

July 18, 2004

Atelier 585



Just a couple of pix from the exhibit at Atelier 585. The opening reception was really good. Lots of good people, good friendly talk, good food and good drink. And the work looked especially good. Jo Stern, gallery owner, did a beautiful job hanging the work. More about this later, when I have caught up on my sleep! I’ll just have to let the pictures speak for now.

Posted by leya at 09:23 AM

July 16, 2004

Enemy Women

I just finished reading Enemy Women by Paulette Stiles. Although the writing is not as high quality as the story (just needs better editing), it is an interesting book historically and an interesting tale. About the Southern women during the Civil War in the States, their strengths, their struggles, how they were persecuted and abused.

The story is related through the experiences of Adair, an eighteen year old girl who becomes a strong forceful woman through her travels, incarceration and escape from the Union army (the story takes place in 1864). In the course of the story, she is forced, with her younger sisters, to leave her home, is captured and, having to leave her sisters, jailed, and befriended by the major in charge of the jail who then wants her to write a confession that would help her to be released. A task she ultimately did with great wit and intelligence, revealing her strong character and developing a bond with the major who did help her to escape.

Adair hated needlework and she could not imagine sitting and stitching the fine crow’s-foot seams……….Writing was the same, the pinching of thoughts into marks on paper and trying to keep your cursive legible, trying to think of the next thing to say and then behind you on several sheets of paper you find you have left permanent tracks, a trail, upon which anybody could follow you. Stalking you through your deep woods of private thought.

This struck home with me, the deep woods of private thought. It describes so well the creative process. Those private recesses of the jungle of the mind from which comes a reality that transcends, climbs to the highest tree and transcends even that in order to fly.

When I first started painting I was convinced that every piece of art I produced had to be completely spontaneous. An exhausting process coming from a dense jungle. At times I found various methods to organize this “spontaneity.” But when the “method” became a ritual stronger than the product, it had to be abandoned. Over the past ten years or so I have used literal visual cues as starting point, silk-screened photos of people important in my life, people to give me a charge, excite (for pleasure and pain). But these “permanent tracks” are deeply buried in the work. They are not there to be followed but to inspire, to jar, to open up, clear the jungle. To me all great art transcends “your deep woods of private thought” to reach a deeper private area, publicly.

Posted by leya at 08:17 AM

July 15, 2004

More about chess........

”Of course,” Cesar went on, “talent isn’t enough in itself to make one’s way in the world. You do understand that, don’t you, young man? (Sergio) All the great art forms require a certain knowledge of the world, a deep experience of human relations. It’s quite another matter with abstract activities, in which talent is of the essence and experience merely a complement. By that I mean music, mathematics . . . chess.”

Being an abstract artist, I’m not sure exactly what he means. Maybe painting is not an abstract activity because it involves materials—paint, canvas—but the real activity of painting is time, space, not thought, but most probably, yes, the experience the artists’ life brings to that time and space—to make it a profound revelation over time and into space.

When I was in art school, there was a constant emphasis on not exhibiting too young, on garnering experience, learning, studying, maturing. That art is process not product. Things have changed. Youth is revered, blessed. And I often wonder what would have happened if I had not been so shy, not had so much fear on the personality level and been able to exhibit my work at a much younger stage. I’ll never know……………….

Posted by leya at 08:18 AM

Atelier 585

Speaking of exhibiting: I will be having an exhibit at a new gallery in Annapolis Royal. The opening reception is tomorrow night, Friday, July 16, from 5 to 7 pm at Atelier 585 (the reception will be followed by "Havanafax" Jazz Concert with Jeff Goodspeed and Lisa Lindo, at Hillsdale House, 8:00pm). Hope to see you there (both places)!

The exhibit runs until August 1 at 585 St. George St., Annapolis Royal, N.S., B0S1C0
Tel (902) 532-0284
Hours: Wed.-Sun., 11:00am-6:00pm

Posted by leya at 08:17 AM

July 14, 2004

Life as a chess game

I finished The Flanders Panel, Arturo Perez-Reverte’s first best-selling novel, on the plane to Montreal (I had to return the book to it’s rightful owner, Jessica). It is advertised as an “intriguing multilayered thriller.” With its convoluted plot, played out from the chess board of a painting to the chess board of the players in their lives, Perez-Reverte moves deeply into the personalities of the pieces of the story.

Was she really afraid? In other circumstances, the question would have been a good topic for academic discussion, in the pleasant company of friends, in a warm, comfortable room, in front of a fire, with a bottle of wine. Fear as the unexpected factor, fear as the sudden, shattering discovery of a reality which, though only revealed at that precise moment, has always been there. Fear as the crushing end to ignorance or as the disruption of a state of grace. Fear as sin………………………………..But this new fear, which Julia had only just discovered, was different. New, unfamiliar, unknown until now, touched by the shadow of Evil with a capital E, the initial letter of everything that lies at the root of suffering and pain…………The Evil that can only be painted in the dark colours of black night, black shadows and black solitude. Evil with a capital E, Fear with a capital F.

I’ve never been attracted to mystery as a genre, but I do enjoy Perez-Reverte’s writing enough to have read three of his novels, all three centering on mystery. His stories are intriguing, enlightening, his people complex, interesting. In The Nautical Compass he drew the most beautiful portrait of male sexuality/lust I have ever read. There is an elegance to his writing that makes me hunger for more.

Without a doubt fear is a crippling emotion, as is hope. Here Julia is feeling fear from “Murder with a capital M.” My friend John in Montreal asked me about loneliness, what it means to me. I told him it is hope that makes it a problem, Hope with a capital H. Hoping that things will be different, hoping that I won’t be lonely, hoping that “something” is just around the corner (which corner?). It’s that simple? he said, and smiled.

One of the slogans of Atisha is Give up all possibilities of fruition. That’s a tough one. The paralysis of fear is more commonly recognized. The paralysis of hope can be just as crippling. I remember a time when I started almost every sentence with “I wish……..” Or, “if only…….” So, coming home to a quiet house, “I hope” I continue to be here, really be here, Be here with a capital B (until I go away again!).

Posted by leya at 06:53 AM

July 13, 2004

What I did on my summer vacation....

It really was a lovely holiday, not a care in the world, just wandered around, saw the city, visited with friends, hung out with Aaron & Jessica.

Went to the Montreal Jazz Fest........


and watched/heard some jazz outdoors:


Lots of people wandering across the grounds:


Watched people watching jazz:


Went to bookstores but didn't buy anything this trip. I still have stacks of books to read at home. (I did read Richard Russo's Empire Falls while I was there. Took it off the shelves from Jessica's family. Really good book):


Went to Ikea. (Bought a rack for CD's that fit into my suitcase):


Wandered about the streets with Aaron & Jessica and with friends:


It's a very busy, noisy city. Lots of "things" to do. Also went to the Musee de Beaux-Arts to see the Jean Cocteau exhibit, went to coffee shops, went to two movies, Farenheit 9/11 and The Corporation (what a strange world we are living in!), wrote, read, slept and ate.

I came home to a garden of bursting peonies and quiet nights with only the loons singing on the lake. It is indeed nice to be home.

Posted by leya at 06:43 PM

July 12, 2004

Flying high

The view definitely seems better from Executive Class!


I was bumped up to first class flying to Montreal. Not bad! Back in steerage on the way home, but was (am) too tired to notice!

After a week in noisy busy Montreal it is very quiet here now. Must catch up on some sleep before I say more............

Posted by leya at 04:13 PM

July 09, 2004

Having a lovely time, etc.

I'm on holiday in Montral (till Sunday), hence the silence......................More later, for sure!

Posted by leya at 10:21 AM

July 03, 2004

It's a strike!

It really was a strike! Tomo, Yoko and I went bowling last night. My score was not too bad, considering. Tomo and Yoko were better, for sure. But partway into the game, I realized that if I concentrated more on what I was doing, not just throw the ball and hope for the best, but really concentrate, as in telling myself to keep my wrist straight, to think “strike” (i.e., get the ball to go down the center of the lane, not into the gutter!) it really helped. Not very different from playing the piano, where so often I find my mind drifting and then the notes wander away from the music and go into the gutter as well. I think it is different in painting, where my mind is tuned in whether I realize it or not, my reactions sometimes feel outside of my body/mind. Maybe because I have been doing it for so long and it is so much a part of my body language. But then there are times when my concentration is essential to make the right choices. And that’s where it counts on the scorecard.

I also realized after a while Yoko was doing so well because she used the shiny balls. That helped my game too!


Here they look like chocolate balls—good enough to eat.

Posted by leya at 02:03 PM

July 02, 2004

Gone but never forgotten

Aaron & Jessica left for Montreal Tuesday morning. They, and Jessica’s dad and step-mother, stayed here a couple of nights before they left. (I loved having a full house!) They drove and when they got in Wednesday night, Aaron called me, told me to look on my camera. Odile had taken this photo to leave me a memory of two very tired travelers.


After a couple of weeks of packing, the stress of moving, and a two day car trip, they sound, as of this morning, to be resting up and probably eager for their new life in Montreal.

I left my house before they did Tuesday morning because I had Pilates classes. One of the other women commented that I looked tired. I told her I was having an emotional day, that my son had just left to live in Montreal. Everyone was understanding. They were all mothers of grown children. That helped. And of course, they all said Montreal is their favorite city, etc.

When Aaron first moved back to Halifax three years ago, after eleven years in Montreal, I couldn’t believe he was actually here. When he realized he was moving away again, he was extra attentive to me, calling, inviting me to dinner, to meet for lunch. It has made the move easier, those extra times together. One advantage of having grown children is that it doesn’t take much to make a mom happy, just a little more attention. (But writing this, that they are gone, has been very hard.)

I’m going to Montreal as of Sunday for a week—for the Jazz Fest—and to soften the transition. They won’t get that far away from me!

Posted by leya at 03:01 PM

July 01, 2004

Image of summer

Yoko and her friend Tomo who is visiting from Japan came over yesterday afternoon. We played duets, sat down by the lake and then feasted on watermelon.



Four warm sunny days in a row, setting a record for this year! Perhaps we will have a summer after all.

Posted by leya at 08:30 PM