June 28, 2005

Friend of Bambi meets friend of Bambi

My peonies are blooming. No breakfast for deer here now. The rotten egg spray seems to have kept them at bay. (The red peony bush was a Mother's Day gift from Aaron and Jessica last year. The intense color is startling to see when the flowers burst open.)


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And now I use some incense to offend (politely) the deer. I learned about the incense in an interesting way. After posting my use of rotten egg spray to keep away the deer, I received an email from Elin Neumann in Denmark, telling me she had come across my blog while looking for something to "Tell the deer to leave my flowers for my pleasure".

Strange to tell (I will paraphrase her email here), but she realized I was the same Leya Evelyn, who exhibited at the Agnes Bugera Gallery in Edmonton, where she will join a group show in December to exhibit her very beautiful abstract landscape paintings!!!

An interesting coincidence, she told me. She lives in Denmark, and had never been closer to Canada, than in April 2005 when she flew to New York, and looked down at cold Nova Scotia (the three-season provinceautumn, winter and summer)!

It's a small world.... but it's not a small Internet, so it's strange, we think!

Back to deers! Elin told me she "has been using incense sticks! Indian scent sticks not used. Just stick them in the ground beside the flower you want to save, and you will not see a deer around it any more. I don't know how long it works, because I just got the idea 2 weeks ago, but before that I had the deer in my garden nearly every night, but now they are gone. (I kind of miss them, I guess.) But I also love roses a lot!

Hope the Nova Scotia deer have noses the same as Danish Bambi's!"

Then, a few days later, she sent me some photos (below) of her beautiful gardenwith deer visitors! So it seems the incense needs to be near each flower. At this time, Im still using both. Deer are nice, beautiful, but can do so much damage to a domestic garden!


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Posted by leya at 05:05 PM

June 25, 2005

The sun rise in June

It's been a very busy week. In fact, the past two weeks have been unusually busy. The last day of school was Friday and still lots to do. But the sun rise was so beautiful Thursday morning, I ran out in my robe and slippers to steal some pictures:


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Posted by leya at 01:38 PM

June 20, 2005

Still more tango!

Another Tango weekend, this time with a visiting teacher from Montreal, Clement Lafond. We learned some fancy footwork:


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And watched Margaret and Clement dance.


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It is quiet here in my home but I can still hear the music and I feel as if I am still dancing. I learned so much this weekend, especially that I need to dance more. Clement said over and over that tango dance is 95% practice. Ive been taking beginner classes since October. This was the first time I have had a chance to dance with more experienced dancers for such a prolonged time. I can see what I have been missing, the flow of the dance, putting it all together. Time to move on, take more classes. Learn more. The tango is such an amazing experience.

Posted by leya at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2005

Five questions from Rachel

Rachel sent me some very interesting, thoughtful questions that I have been mulling over for the past week or so. In the spirit of this provocative game, I think I have my thoughts together now and will answer here.

1. What thing about your life has surprised you the most?

This is the hardest question so I will leave it for last!

2. Do you have something that someone in your family or life passed down to you that holds particular significance? What is it and what's the significance?

After my father died, and then, shortly after, my step-mother (my father had remarried after my mother died and had a twenty-five year, happy second marriage), we (her son and two daughters and my sister and I) were cleaning out the house where my sister and I had lived as children, and my father had continued to live until he was ninety. I remember it was September, a warm sunny day in Bethesda. I was in the driveway near the garage and my step-brother came up to me with something in the palm of his hand. He said he had just found these in his mother�s closet, that I could do whatever I wanted with them, tell my sister or not, but he would give them to me. It was my parents� wedding rings. A very precious gift. I have made my father�s ring smaller and wear it on my left index finger.

As for my mother�s, I had always loved it. It is a carved gold ring of flowers. When I was married I found one similar so I bought it and wore it. When I left the marriage, I had the ring made larger so I could wear it on another finger. My first dog, Miranda and my mother shared the same birthday and they had somewhat similar personalities: very friendly, outgoing, vivacious, sensitive, intelligent (well, I think so, but Aaron used to call her a dumb blond, the dog, that is; my mother died two years before he was born and she was not blond!). The night Miranda was dying, I felt the ring being removed from my hand in my sleep and the next morning it was gone. I never found the ring, even when I moved from that house and searched in the empty room. I don�t wear her ring. But it sits on a special ring holder on the chest of drawers in my bedroom. And, almost fifteen years later, I still haven�t told my sister.

And then, there is my grandfather�s watch chain, a beautiful piece of gold chain. My parents had it cut in half and gave part to my sister and the other part to me. I used to wear a gold watch piece (one my parents bought in Venice) on it, but when the watch stopped working, I had the chain made into a necklace and bracelet and wear them every day.

There is also my mother�s cameo. That is a piece of jewelry she wore almost every day, on the lapel of her very well tailored suits, when she went to work as administrative assistant at the National Institutes of Health. My grandfather bought it in Africa, I think, and gave it to my grandmother when he saw her again, after bringing her, with my then six-year-old dad, over to the U.S. from Latvia in 1908. When my mother died at sixty-five, my dad gave me that cameo (and another one to my sister). I hardly wear it because I am in jeans and a tee shirt most of the time. But it is very special to me.

So I guess I would have a hard time choosing which piece means the most to me. I�ll just say I would like my children to have my familial jewelry collection.

3. What one place that you've not visited would you most like the chance to see? Why?

That�s easy: Brazil! I want to spend time with my granddaughter and see where she lives, explore the country with her. She�s been living there for the past seven years. I saw her last January 2004. It was as if no time had passed since she was two, since she moved away. Even though I don�t speak Portuguese, we could communicate, through drawing and doing things together. And of course, Aaron, her dad, was there to translate, so perhaps I will need to take him with me!

4. Both of you made significant moves in your life. What do you like the most about your new location and what do you miss the most about the old one?

I love the feeling of peace and space I find here in Nova Scotia. Even though the weather can be fierce (as it is right now--cold and raining and windy, no summer yet!), the general tone of life here is very considerate. I live only a short distance from the largest city in the area, Halifax, and yet I am in a rural setting, not visible to my neighbors, although I know they are close by and available. I have privacy and community. And it is visually very beautiful and interesting all the time!

What I miss most is my family and friends, especially my children. I have good friends here but I do miss my New York friends and love to visit there. I don�t miss the speed of the City but I do miss the readily available culture, the many museums and galleries, the big choice of movies and plays and concerts. We have some of everything here but not the excitement of so many choices. So I guess it is the cultural life of the Big City that I miss along with the friends I left there.

5. What one piece of wisdom do you wish to pass on to your daughters?

This is another hard question. There are so many things I would like to say (and probably do, my children would say!) but especially, most important, follow your dreams. Do it for yourself, don�t worry what other people think. That is what makes you so unique and paradoxically what makes other people notice you. So�be true to your dreams.

And now for question 1. What thing about your life has surprised you the most?

I am still surprised at how much I�ve changed over the years. The only thing you can count on is change. But it can still be a surprise. And this has happened and keeps happening, despite it being hard. It�s not the physical change that I am talking about, but the internal ones. Although the physical changes do reflect the inner ones. It�s been about transformation, allowing what is on the inside to happen on the outside. I do things today that I never thought I could or would.

When I was younger I would go so far as to try to mold my handwriting to the person I thought I should be. At one point I even tried a backward slant because I admired people who were different, left-handed, and wrote that way. Then I made my writing be straight up and down. And then small even though my natural tendency was to write large. Now I write as large as I want as a reflection, not a statement.

I think I brought up my children to embrace change as growth, as what life is about. But my parents were trained to put their children in categories and keep them there. So labels were frustrating and limiting and basically useless words to fight against. My fur can still get ruffled when someone tries to put me in a box that doesn�t fit or one that I have outgrown, left behind.

I was always a very shy, reserved person in public. And often quite loud at home, much to my family�s dismay. I remember once a friend assessed me quite accurately: that I carried myself very carefully because I felt like a bull in a china shop and was afraid of breaking something. The other morning I did break my favorite mug, one that is irreplaceable. Maybe it was a symbol of what�s happening in my life, but it was just a mug. I�m in the process of cleaning up my house, purging my closets and shelves. Changing, once again, how I think about myself, my life, my choices, my inner and outer home. And I am still surprised by how pervasive the need to change, grow, transform is in me. Lately I keep telling my friend Ed, a chiropractor, that by the time I die I will be in perfect shape. (Well, maybe the day before, he says!)

So these are my answers. This was a really fun and challenging way to look at my life. I really enjoyed thinking about these questions. If any one else wants to play, let me know and I will send you five questions to answer on your blog!

Posted by leya at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)

June 13, 2005

Why marry a Communist when you can have a computer?

Now about Philip Roths I Married a Communist. I bought the book in a large, four storey bookstore in Bern that had a full floor of books in English. I had prematurely finished the book I brought with me, Tracey Chevaliers The Lady and the Unicorn, which had seemed like the appropriate book to read on a trip through Europe (about a family of tapestry makers in Belgium). But it was so good that I finished it on the plane trip to Zurich and, feeling naked without a book to read, was happy to find such a large selection in Bern.

The Roth book was different than I expected. I had read Portnoys Complaint many years ago and still remember its biting wit and view of Jewish/Goy relationships. (Especially the part where, when the proper young gentile girlfriend of the sexually obsessed Portnoy of proper Jewish upbringing, is asked at a cocktail party by a friend of her parents, what she had been doing all summer, she replied: Growing a penis.) So I expected more of the same. But this book, being based on actual events during the Communist scare in the late 40s, early 50s, the McCarthy era, was slow to get into (pun not intended!). Im not great on political history and it was written as a retelling of events, rather than through immediate action, so it took a lot of attention to stay with it.

I was reading this book on the plane from Amsterdam to Newark. Sitting next to me was a grey haired man with a ponytail. He slept for a while and, at some point, woke and mentioned to me that he couldnt help noticing the title of the book. He told me he was from the Soviet Union, had left in the late 80s. Because he was Jewish, he and his family were allowed to leave. He and his wife came to New York City and later to upstate New York. We were talking for a short while when he mentioned, in the course of a conversation about people not reading as much as they used to, that his son is addicted to computer games. He said that is all the child wants to do. He comes home from school and goes right to the computer and stays on it until bedtime, isnt interested in anything else, doesnt pay attention in school, doesnt play with other children much. So I told him it might be a good idea to limit how long he is on the computer. I did it with my children with TV: they were allowed so much time per day (I think it was an hour) and if they wanted to watch a longer show, they had to take it from another day, like rationing it out. His reply was: Oh, no. Its too late now. Hes already seven years old.

At which point, I excused myself and became seriously absorbed in my book. And actually really began to enjoy it. It is a good book, looking at relationships from many points of view: love, anger, obsession or perhaps more the politics of obsession viewed from many angles. Looking at what motivates a person to pursue their beliefs, whether it is in a relationship with a person or an idea. And this done through the looking back on and piecing together, reminiscing on the experiences of a fanatic. So, in the case of Ira Ringold, the sad, obsesssed hero of this novel, if it hadnt been Communism, what else might have driven his life to the inevitable self-destruction that he courted? Computer games?

Posted by leya at 05:48 PM | Comments (2)

June 12, 2005

Just around the corner

Just to let you know what it is like to live in Smalltown, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday evening, when I went to the concert at the Music Room (Aiyun Huang, percussionist), the friends who invited me arranged to meet some friends of theirs at the concert, their names not being familiar to me. So after the introductions, one of the men said he remembered me. He had worked on the renovations of my first house in Nova Scotia. That was twenty years ago. In addition, I had given him my old futon, and he remembered. (He doesn�t have it anymore!) Then I asked the two women with him, his girlfriend and her sister, what their last name was because they looked very familiar. It turns out I know their mother from school.

When I go to an event here (or even the grocery store), it feels more strange not to see someone I know!

Posted by leya at 02:11 PM

June 10, 2005

The body is a world of percussion instruments

Wednesday evening I went to one of the Scotia Festival of Music concerts: Aiyun Huang (playing solo and also a few duets with Mark Duggan) is a Taiwanese-Canadian multi-award winning percussionist who has played with many famous artists worldwide. She is currently a Faculty Fellow at the University of California, San Diego.

She gave an electrifying performance of contemporary music on an array of percussive instruments, including drums, a large keyboard, clay flower pots, marimbas, and her own body (try it, it's fascinating, the sounds you can make by patting, thrumming, stroking and humming on/with your body). The most intriguing part for me was when, after an almost demonic performance of challenging music, she would look up at the audience with the most angelic, priceless smile. At times like this, it�s hard to believe you are in (what often seems like quiet little) Halifax.

Posted by leya at 07:01 PM

June 06, 2005

How to tell the deer to leave your flowers for your own pleasure

About four or five years ago I was hanging out at the vets, waiting to pay (or something like that) and complaining about losing all of my tulips and most of my new peony buds to deer. They love them just before the flowers burst into bloom and I had unwillingly provided breakfast. Another woman at the counter said she had just the cure for deer. Rotten egg water. And it works.

Take about a half dozen eggs (she said eight but I use six, its easier), put them in a litre of water, blend well, let it sit for a week, then put it in a large sprayer bottle, add water to fill and spray onto the flowers and bushes, especially after a rain. The smell lasts quite a while to the deer but not at all to humans. And the plants love it. Its amazing.

Another system that works well (if you have it available) is the early morning urine of the male species. My female dog scent helped a little but she is no longer with me so, until I get another dog (which is a constant question in my mind) the egg-water does the job.

Posted by leya at 07:01 AM

June 05, 2005

Back in Amsterdam

It's been warm and sunny (even almost too hot!) since Tuesday. Until this morning when it is grey and cold again. And raining, but a light rain, like a Dutch rain, coming straight down, not the Nova Scotia rain which is horizontal (and an umbrella is useless). I was able to get a fair bit of gardening done yesterday, and some this morning. It is a delayed season but things are beginning to bloom. Trees have leaves; just a few days ago it seemed like they were bare. My rhodi's are beginning to burst and the peonies are budding up nicely. (I have to spray them with rotten egg water to keep the deer away. It works!)

The house where I stayed in Amsterdam was on a street that bordered on the Vondelpark. It was very beautiful and lush and led right to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseums:

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Then there is the Waterlooplein market:


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and the flower stalls:


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and some sculpture on top of a houseboat on the canal:


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Posted by leya at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

June 04, 2005

On the move

I was going to put up more pictures of Amsterdam (there are still more I want to show you) but they can wait their turn. Tamar posted pictures of her house today and (tears aside, on my part, for the memories and such that have gone into that particular house and the joy of the next step for her family) it stirred up many thoughts.

Two years ago, when I was visiting over the winter holidays, Tamar and I were hanging out in her living room. I think she had a head cold and we were chatting about this and that. Damian was at school; Dan at work. Tamar casually said �I wonder how easy it will be to remove the wallpaper in this room.� (Damian�s room and the guest room had already been done with much hard labor.) So she tweaked an edge of paper; it came off easily and then I joined in, both of us giggling and saying Dan might not be too happy about the mess when he comes home, but we continued nevertheless. By the time Dan did come home, three-quarters of the wall was stripped (well, maybe I exaggerate; I�m a Sagittarius after all!). And Dan was not in the least upset.

Every time I went to visit more work had been done. The transformation has been inspiring. (I�m now working on my own house, but I hope I won�t be selling!) Over the four years Tamar and Dan and Damian have lived there, I have often wondered if I was wrong to encourage them to buy that house. It felt so right at the time. I was visiting. It was late April, I think. Warm and sunny. A welcome relief from the long winter we have here. Tamar saw the listing (they weren�t actively looking at the time, just a casual glance at what might be available) and we walked over from the house they were then renting. It looked enticing, although definitely needing work. When we saw the inside, the beautiful moldings were magnetizing. And having a yard was very appealing. (I liked the lemon and avocado trees especially.)

But Tamar was never really happy about being there. I do know that they would never have bought it if they hadn�t known it was ultimately right. And really, I never could talk Tamar (or Aaron) into doing anything she (or he) didn�t believe in. And now selling it is so right. Especially since they will be moving closer to me, only one (two hour) plane ride away.

Of the three of us, Tamar, Aaron and me, she is the most stable, having lived in only four places in the seventeen years she has lived in LA. Aaron and I, on the other hand, move more frequently. It surprised me recently to hear Aaron recite the many addresses he has had. More, in fact, than me. Until I moved here almost nine years ago, I would move on the average every three years (and that includes the nine years on West End Avenue in NYC). (And each time I moved, with children, pets, studio supplies, paintings, plants, etc., I told Tamar and Aaron that this would be the last time. They stopped believing me. Now I don�t say anything about what might happen!)

So I hope Tamar and Dan settle in to their new environment easily and quickly. And don�t have to move too many more times.

Posted by leya at 05:24 PM

Deleted Scenes

Thursday evening I went to one of the best dance performances I have seen in a long time. Verve Mwendo are at the Neptune Studio Theatre tonight (at 8 pm) and tomorrow (Sunday at 3 pm) in a piece they call Deleted Scenes (as in "out-takes from a movie"). Performing are Jacinte Armstrong, Cory Bowles, Christine Finley, Dani Oore and Sageeve Oore. It was a clever, strong, poignant, funny and profound performance. Beautiful dance and fascinating music. If you can, do see it!

Posted by leya at 01:06 PM

June 02, 2005

and more Amsterdam

The images of Amsterdam (and Switzerland) still run through my mind. (I have even put them in rotation on my computer desktop.) Now that the weather has turned warm and sunny here (finally!), I will turn my attention more to the beauty that surrounds me. Nevertheless, here are a few more pix from beautiful Amsterdam.

First, a view from the eleventh floor of the old Post Office building that also housed the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam's Municipal (modern-art) Museum, while the original building was under renovations. The exhibit I saw there took one painting from each year beginning in the 1880's to the present. (It was an interesting concept but I, personally, would have liked to have seen better choices in some of the artwork.)

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Down on the ground, all the houses have hooks near the roof because the houses are so narrow and the stairs so steep, they need to haul items up on the outside:


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Some street scenes:


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and lastly, even Amsterdam had it's share of graffiti:


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Posted by leya at 08:26 AM | Comments (2)

June 01, 2005

Finally sun.....

Yesterday morning, about halfway through my class, the light changed in the room and suddenly everyone smiled. I looked out the window and saw blue sky. I had forgotten what that looked like. After what seems like endless grey days and excessive rains, it is warm and sunny, just like a normal June day. What a pleasant surprise! And they say there is not even a possibility (according to the weather-gods) of rain until Sunday. We might get spoiled here in Eastern Canada!

Posted by leya at 03:46 PM