I’m writing this sitting in the lounge of the St. John, New Brunswick airport (although I will have to post it when I get home. There is definitely no wi-fi here, nor do I have it on my computer--yet). I have a four-hour layover on my way home from Montreal. When checking in I first asked the agent in Montreal if I could get an easier flight, but all other flights to Halifax were overbooked already. Then she said they had my name backwards. I said they often do. But she had confused the names and had Leya as the last name, as, I said, people often do. She apologized profusely but I really am used to it. What does get me a bit miffed is when someone says: “Are you sure?” when I tell them Evelyn is the last name.
When I asked her about getting an easier flight selection, I also said they probably have a good bookstore in the St. John airport. She smiled. Now I know why. There are two gates here, one lounge/luncheonette-restaurant/shop and only a few (very small) planes in and out each day. The Halifax airport (which is quite large now and still growing) was not much bigger than this the first time I arrived in it, twenty-some years ago. It feels nice, friendly, but I still wish I didn’t have such a long wait. And I wish there was a bookstore here. But Jessica lent me an interesting book (The Shadow of the Wind by Carolos Ruiz Zafon) so as soon as my airplane headache calms down, I will read it. (It will be far better than the constant CNN program on the (large) TV here repeating itself over and over and over.)
After a wonderful four days in Montreal, it is hard to go home, yet I’m looking forward to getting back to painting and going to visit my puppy. I have some pix in my camera and will unload them tonight. None of the tango classes though. That was a very intriguing few hours. Brigitta Winkler (from Germany) is an excellent dance teacher. Her enthusiasm is expressed best in her body language, appropriate for tango, what tango is essentially, a communication of bodies. There were people at the classes from all over: Bolivia, Quebec, Toronto, Maine, New Haven, Halifax and even Buenos Aires. I plan to look up some tango places when I go to New York in December. It’s an interesting community, spreading around the globe. Aaron said it is a known pick up place for singles in Montreal. It was easy to tell who was looking around for dates. I found the more advanced dancers were more accessible as dancing partners, felt they just wanted to dance. I mentioned to one (excellent) dancer I was partnered with for a while (we rotate partners often) that I am a good dancer when I have a good partner. He said that is so true for all of us. Yet some of the more advanced dancers make it so easy to follow, to feel the intentions of the leader.
The first class was one of seeing the dance as taking flowers from a bouquet (literally and figuratively), learning the many possibilities of movement, learning to choose this or that, or this and that. The second class was about the musicality of the dance. Brigitta had us walking around the room in alternating rhythms, counter to our partner, then in tune with the partner and also adjusting the volume of our dance, from normal to loud to whispering. I am hoping that our little tango dance community in Halifax will start growing more. It is good but still too small. The energy in Montreal was really different. Our Halifax group is still like the little engine that could (but still trying). Although I must admit, my idea that everyone in Montreal was a great dancer was a bit off. Everyone has to start somewhere. Yet, it is true, when they are good, they are very very good.
Last Saturday a friend (who is about ten years younger than me and whom I haven’t seen in a while) came over to look at my work. She wanted to pick a painting to rent while she put her house on the market to sell. As I was sorting through and hauling paintings around in my studio, she asked me “Leya, how old are you?” I told her, proudly, “I will be sixty-eight next Saturday.” “And you’re still going at it!” I said “Why not!”
This little interchange is replete with admiration for the process of aging as well as the suggestion that sixty-eight is old, and perhaps it is amazing I can still move. To her credit, I think coming into my studio can be overwhelming to people who are not used to it. I do a lot of work and most of it is very large so my studio is quite full. So there is definitely an exciting energy in the room itself.
Most artists do mature well. Like conductors where the physical and mental activity keeps them active, the act of painting is energizing. I think, perhaps, it is the childlike mind that is a generator for artwork. In many ways, painting is play. Intelligent play. Demanding openness to unlimited possibilities. Challenging.
I know I am fortunate, come from a family where youthfulness is common. My one hundred year old (almost 101) aunt is still full of piss and vinegar. My dad didn’t slow down (at all) until he was eighty-four (and lived until he was ninety). My lively, vibrant mother died an early, very untimely death from DDT poisoning, at sixty-five. There are no guarantees.
I do color my hair, but so do 99% of my students (even, especially, the eighteen year olds) and most of the women I know. I’m a fairly active person: paint, teach, dance, read, exercise, play, think, etc. Basically, enjoy my life, live. I was told a quote yesterday: “There is a difference between living and dying and being alive and dead.”
Youthfulness is considered an asset but my greatest pleasure is in the wisdom and calmness that blossoms with age. When I was reading some of the comments on an entry by Ronni on her blog, Time Goes By (whose main theme on her blog is aging) where she was asking people how they felt about proclaiming their age, one man said (and I probably am slightly misquoting, but the idea is right!): “Hell, no. I don’t tell my age. I would never get a date if I did!” I would like to lie about my age. Maybe then I would be able to “get a date.” But the date I would “get” because I lied wouldn’t be the one I wanted. I want to be wanted for who I am, not some number attached to my entity.
I’ve been told I should, when someone tells me I don’t look my age (which I do hear often), say: “This is what sixty-eight looks like.” So………..
Today is my sixty-eighth birthday and this is what sixty-eight (holding a four day old puppy with a two year old mom) looks like!
For four days, leaving in the wee hours of the morning. I’m really looking forward to this trip. I haven’t seen Aaron and Jessica’s new apartment yet or Mr. Higgins, their new cat. I’ve also scheduled a couple of dance classes with a visiting instructor from Germany, Brigitta Winkler. And I’m sure Montreal itself will be a good host, offering many interesting enticements. I’m all packed and ready to go!
I started another blog. I didn’t plan it at all. My friend Elin wrote me that she had started a blog on Journalspace. When I went there and wanted to leave a comment, I had to sign on which seemed as if I was starting a blog. So I started thinking about it. There is something I had often wanted to do: document what I do in my studio, how my paintings happen, how I feel about their progress, what I think about before, during and after painting. So that’s what it is. The mundane thoughts and activities of a painter in her studio. I'm calling it Speculations & Revelations because that is what the painting process is to me.
Just when I think I have a gap, some space in my otherwise very busy schedule, I come down with a lousy head cold. What a bummer! I can’t paint because wearing my mask would be (very) uncomfortable with a runny nose. So yesterday I stretched up a canvas, then ran out of canvas, then started working on a quilt I am making for Aaron and Jessica (hoping to finish it before I go to Montreal Thursday to visit them) and ran out of a particular (very necessary) fabric. All I can do (have the energy for) this morning is clean up the (many) stacks of paper I usually neglect (because of my busy schedule and because it's not fun and if I'm home I prefer to paint) and lie around and read how to train my puppy books. (Definitely fun!)
I just finished Richard Wright’s novel Adultery. It’s a fascinating plot-line (a married man in his mid-fifties has his first casual affair and the much younger lady is murdered, necessitating his having to face his indiscretion publicly as well as privately), begins well, but lost my enthusiasm soon into the book. I loved his earlier book, Clara Callan, cried through the whole book, even while sitting in the Motor Vehicle registration office. Expecting to feel the same way, in this one I just didn’t care so much about the characters.
Thinking about Sue Miller’s books and how I preferred her most recent novel, making it difficult to read an earlier book, I started thinking about my own work. Early vs. later. Is one better because it is more mature. Etc. When I am giving a slide presentation of my work, I can see the connections from the beginning to now, see how my ideas have come full circle. Some of my early work is very good. A lot was not (but I don’t have photos of those!). I went through many stages, many different ways of working, to come to what I am doing now. And it too is evolving, changing. I used to find myself changing approaches every three or four years. Now it is a more smooth evolution. The biggest change is that, even though some of my very early work is (in my opinion) as good as what I am doing now, there was not much of it; it didn’t happen often. Maybe two or three good pieces a year. Maybe. Now I have much more skill, control, and let’s face it, maturity. Maybe similar to the editing skill that is required of a more mature writer. And now I’m willing to spend more time on a piece, not letting it go until it feels just right.
I went back to visit my puppy yesterday. She's grown in the past three days. Meanwhile another of Jane's dogs has had a litter of eleven puppies. It's a very happy household.
I went to visit my puppy yesterday. She’s four days old. And so cute. Her mom is very good to her pups, keeps them clean and warm, is just beginning to venture out from their pen. I climbed in with the pups and the mom.
Mine is the one with the green ribbon, the one on the top left.
They look like just a pile of black (and a little white) here as the pups snuggle into mom. (Look for the green ribbon!)
I’m holding her up here so you can see her beautiful markings-- a white circle on her belly, a white diamond on her head, a white tip on her tail and four white paws.
And I plan to go back again on Thursday.
If you think I am obsessed with the morning over the lake, just wait until I get my puppy!
So I put my sign up on the road a few Friday’s ago. It says “Leya Evelyn Studio”. Standing on the road supervising the installation of the post, I met several neighbors. One with a beautiful seven year old golden retriever, another my neighbor who had recently moved in next door. But next door is so far away I hadn’t realized I had new neighbors there. That particular house has had four sets of residents since I moved in here nine years ago. For the first time in my life, I’m the one that that seems to be staying.
That particular house also seems to be one that is friendly to pets. The first people had a dog and a cat. The next family loved and cared for Katie when I was traveling (and had a couple of cats). The next couple had three dogs and we met in the lake as she was exercising them. This current family has a couple of dogs (I hear them barking and sometimes they come over to inspect my property) and at the time we met, she was walking their big fluffy cat on a leash, taking him to the car to go to the vet. So we didn’t have much time to talk. But she did say that she is an artist as well.
Everyone wants to be an artist. It IS a liberating experience, creating something from nothing. And it is hard work. I haven’t seen my neighbor since and I have no idea what kind of work she does. Recently I have again begun teaching my small group of adults (Buddhists), a painting class. Some of the people in the class have had a lot of experience, some none. Most of them have worked in related art fields, close to, but not, painting. Sometimes I don’t think I am a good teacher for beginners. It’s hard. I don’t remember beginning instruction. It feels like I never began. I just did it. After my intense and valuable year of art school, most of my “education” has been self-taught. If I want to learn something, I investigate. I have become good at critiquing work because I have to—because I teach and a teacher critiques. I am willing to learn. And there is a lot to learn, in regarding making art and also how to teach. And that is one of the (many) things I love about painting (and teaching).
Yesterday morning, while painting, I was listening to The Current. Robert Sapolsky, the author of several books including A Primate's Memoir and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers was being interviewed. He's just written a new book called Monkeyluv: And Other Lessons on our Lives as Animals was being interviewed. Two things stood out to me (before the phone rang and I didn’t hear more of the program). First, in mating, male apes naturally look for females that are younger than themselves and ones who are healthy and fertile. Female apes look for males who are older and stable. Secondly, when courting, a female may be taken with a macho male ape but when his back is turned, she will run off and mate with a male who is kind and gentle. We humans have a lot to learn! From the little I heard of his interview, I am very interested in reading his book.
A lot of my life seems to revolve around CBC radio. I bought Stanley Coren’s book, How Dog’s Think after hearing him talk on the radio. I suppose that started me on the path that led to my eventually stepping over the blocks I had built up about having another dog (the expense, the responsibility, the vacuuming and of course, the inevitable death). I found the book fascinating, gave it to a friend for her birthday, lent it to another friend who was dog-sitting, have promised it to another friend who has a dog and hope to see the book travel well.
My phone call yesterday was from a friend who wants to go with me to see my puppy. She is planning on mating her dog soon and would like to talk to someone who has experience with breeding. Of course I will be delighted to have her come along. And someone else to talk dog with.
When I was at the dentist about a month ago, we started chatting about this and that (as we usually do), and I asked him how his dog was. (We had both experienced the loss of our beloved old dogs at the same time five years ago. His was a Sheltie, mine a Golden.) He said he now has two, a Sheltie and a mixed breed. But that if he were to get another dog, it would be a Portuguese Water Dog. I told him I had been thinking about them, had even written to a breeder in Cape Breton, but hadn’t seen the dogs so I didn’t really know what they were like. And I wasn't planning on getting one soon anyway. He then said there was a breeder in Chester. So I got her name, called her, went to see the dogs, didn’t think I would want one (they are not Golden Retrievers), went home and couldn’t stop thinking about Wave, the one who gave birth to a litter of ten pups (five girls and five boys) a couple of days ago. (And I know the breeder’s closest friend—we used to do obedience training together and she took care of my Katie often when I was traveling.) So it feel like I fell into it.
I’ve had dogs for most of my adult life. Often people, when they see me after an absence of a few years, ask me how (or if, depending) is (are) my dog(s). And they are surprised I didn’t get another dog after Katie died. But this was the first time in forty years that I didn’t have anyone to take care of and I wanted to experience that as fully as I could. And I have. And I do want another warm loving creature in my house. So—that’s the story.
My puppy is born! She is now one day old. I’m going to visit her on Monday. Yes, the wheels are turning. I am probably most likely it seems for sure (the way it looks) eventually maybe if it works out getting a pup. A Portuguese Water Dog, in January!
I’m now reading the Monk’s of New Skete’s book The Art of Raising A Puppy, arranging my thoughts (and eventually schedule) around puppy care and training. I am both incredibly excited, can hardly wait, and anxious about the major change she will bring into my life. I had hoped to wait until summer when I would be home more easily, but I fell in love with her mother. It seems the time is right.
It’s been raining hard all day, with strong winds. Enough to make people drive poorly. There were several accidents on the main roads and bridges. It was difficult to see the road.
I had to take my car to Dartmouth for some repairs. Coming home, it took me an hour just to get onto the bridge to go back to Halifax. The lineup was intense, moving a few feet every few minutes. Not fun. I was glad for the good jazz playing on Radio Canada.
A few of my friends have recently started blogs. Elin in Denmark, John in the far North, and Jessica in Montreal. Fascinating, interesting, beautiful sites. An easy, rewarding way to travel into the recesses, the terrain of their lives and minds without leaving my computer.
One of my students said, during a figure drawing class, about making art: "It's a challenge to relax!" I think that about says it all.
Thursday at lunch Hiro said he had read in the local newspaper that Halifax is first in a survey on ideal retirement towns. Vancouver is tenth. The only two cities in Canada on the list. I don’t know about this. I mean, I do love it here, very much, but I also have no plans to retire. Ever.
What would attract a retiree to this place? Bingo seven days a week? The wicked weather? A short hike (a five or six hour drive) to Prince Edward Island to play golf? I suppose if you like to curl up in front of a fire, it’s a great place to winter. Or if you like to travel, it’s a great place to winter, that is, a great place to get a way from in the winter.
I googled “retire Halifax” and came up with the CBS site recommending Halifax because it has beautiful scenery and a large beach (if they mean the ocean, you’d have to like to swim in cold cold water). There are lots of amazing lakes here and the water on the North Shore is warmer. And there is lots of good sailing opportunities. The CBS article recommends, for retirement, choosing a college town (Halifax has five universities) because you can then find cheap entertainment, food and cultural events. Students generate lots of cultural activity. And, CBS says, you can usually find a major teaching hospital and low crime rate in university cities. We do have all of this here.
Halifax is nothing like it was when I first moved here twenty some years ago. Besides more and better stores and restaurants, the most noticeable difference is the traffic. Rush hour was fifteen minutes then. Now it starts at 3:00 and goes to 5:30 or 6:00. The roads definitlely cannot accommodate the increased population outside of Halifax. The commuters (that includes me). We need a commuter rail. (I’d be the first one on the train!)
We have lots of interesting restaurants and stores here now, good shopping, good eating. The best music scene, some good dance and theatre. Before I moved here I was told to buy everything I might ever need because I wouldn’t find anything here. I actually like that about Halifax. I have no desire to spend a lot of time shopping so I usually know exactly where to go to get what I need. But I think the best part of living in (near) Halifax is the general spaciousness of life I find here, the kindness of people, the courtesies of people living so close to the weather and the land. A good place to live.
I don’t know what was happening in the heavens yesterday but they certainly arranged a difficult day for me! The morning was good. Did some work in my studio and then Yoko came over to play duets. Hiro joined us for lunch. That was nice.
But then, not so nice. I had loosely arranged a meeting at school with another instructor. My intuition told me she wouldn’t be there. And there was a note on her door saying she had to pick up her daughter. Understandable. My plan was then to go to the hospital to have some routine blood work done. My intuition nudged me to think I’d probably spend the time more wisely at the grocery store. I had not enough fresh vegetables or fruits in the house with no plan to go into town again until Sunday. But the afternoon is usually a time when there are fewer people waiting so I went to the lab. I was told I probably had about a twenty minute wait. After a half hour I asked how much longer as I had an appointment at 4:15 and it looked to me as if the technicians were taking a break. I was told I was next. After another half hour I retrieved my forms and left. Without the lab work done or the groceries bought. Later I went to Pilates and, in the process of doing the usual exercises, strained a muscle and had to leave, hobbling to my car, eager for a bath in Epsom salts.
Today I am fine, but wondering about intuition. There are many times when I don’t trust what I feel in my gut is right. Sometimes you have no idea what might have happened if you did the “other” thing. But sometimes you do. Sometimes not trusting is so dramatic that it is impossible not to know that you could have avoided a difficult situation. (And to be fair, sometimes good things happen because you go with an hunch.)
One of the best examples of my not trusting my instincts is when I was driving from Cleveland (after my nephew’s wedding) back to Montreal with Aaron (about twelve years ago). We were about an hour outside of Montreal and I had a feeling, very strong, that I should pull over. But there was construction on the highway and I not only couldn’t find a place, but couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Then two teenagers, coming from the side road, decided to make a u-turn in the middle of the highway, hit my car, we swerved, rolled and luckily survived. The kids’ car went off into a field. They weren’t hurt. The paramedic, when he helped me to the ambulance (just a fractured breastbone) said “I guess it just wasn’t your time.” But it would have been a better time if I had trusted my intuition.
This morning the sunrise made up for the hard day previously:
Once more I have successfully avoided the Halloween beggers! Yoko, Hiro and I went first to her piano lesson (she has ten students at this point, and one more to happen soon), then to dinner at an interesting (new) Turkish restaurant in Halifax and then to a movie, Wallace and Grommit. Cute. By the time we returned home, there were just a few people out walking dogs.
Speaking of dogs, I went to see some Portuguese Water Dogs last week. Two were pregnant and one about to be (maybe). One of them really took my heart (the one on the far right). But I just don’t know. I have a soft spot for Golden Retrievers, having had three beautiful, loving, special ones of their kind in my life. But given my sensitivities to the fur and their health problems due to over-breeding, I really must be practical here. If possible.